Manzoor Ahmad Parey
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is being implemented as a flagship programme by the Government of India with the primary objective of universalising primary education, among other things. The programme was initiated in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2002-2003.A lot of research has been done on this scheme by different reputed agencies. Differences apart, the fact of the matter is that under this scheme, a lot of schools have been opened in far off places where children from poor families are getting education free of cost. If our literacy rate has gone up from 55.52% in 2001 to 67.16% as per the 2011census, the credit goes to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme and more importantly to the teachers of these SSA schools. Although the quality of education in these SSA schools is a matter of debate as is in other educational institutions, but the most important aspect of this is that most of the people are unaware of the plight of these teachers who are teaching in the SSA schools. Although, we all are aware of the often-repeated quote that teachers are the builders of the nation, but unfortunately what is their condition?( either we don’t know or we don’t want to know it at all)
Although there have been problems while operationalising the SSA scheme in Jammu and Kashmir since the inception of the scheme, but let us understand nowhere during this process, an appointed ReT teacher could be held responsible. If any wrong has been committed vis-à-vis implementation of this scheme in Jammu and Kashmir; it is planners, policy makers and more importantly, the office bearers of the particular times who stand directly responsible for whatever kind of mess Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan scheme is in, and if the government is really serious to fix the problem, let the heads roll who were responsible for the mismanagement and who flouted the norms of the scheme into the winds.
The tragedy is that the teachers are being held responsible and are being punished for none of their fault, by not releasing their hard-earned dues on time. Every time, the salary due to these teachers is being released only after prolonged protests. The system is compelling the teachers, who are supposed to educate our children in schools to come on the roads. The bunking of classes by our teachers for which they are being forced, comes at the cost of the poor students who are studying in our government schools. They are deprived of a basic right guaranteed to them under article 21 A of Right to Education. The salary crises have also impacted the self-esteem of SSA teachers in our society which, in turn, affects their quality of delivery because after all these teachers too belong to our society and they are facing all the problems which other members of the society face, apart from financial ones.
The story does not end here. Each time, when the salary is credited in the accounts of SSA teachers it is being publicized like anything. From a street vendor in a far-off village to the minister of the department, each and everybody comes to know. The way it is being advertised it seems that as if the government is giving them some favour. This particular thing has stereotyped the image of SSA teachers in our society and every time the salary is released people greet them as if they are the only people on earth who are getting a salary.
Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar is the only state where teachers never get salary on time. Are we following the Bihar model of education? It is high time for the policy makers to re-strategize planning and come up with some concrete solutions. We must understand that this issue is the most pressing problem of the School Education Department as it directly affects the quality of learning of our school going children. It is also pertinent to mention here that already our educational institutions more particular schools have been deadly impacted by the conflict. What we can at least do is that we can avoid this particular burden on our school system, this way at least we can contribute to our society.
(It may be recalled that time and again the ReT teachers were assured of de-linking of their salary from SSA scheme to state budget, but unfortunately no plan of action had been charted out so far)
However, it is pleasing to mention here that the Government of Jammu and Kashmir has recently constituted a high-level committee under the Minister of State (MoS) for Education and other high-level officials to look into the grievances of SSA teachers. We are hopeful that this time around a permanent solution to this problem will found which will be a relief to the thousands of teachers, and in turn to lakhs of students who are receiving education through these teachers.
The author is Assistant Professor (Education), at the GDC , Ganderbal. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org