Periodic trainings are important for government servants, as for any workforce, because they enhance capacity and skills. Trainings hone professional abilities and, in turn, influence the profession as a whole. All big companies impart periodic trainings to their employees through workshops, seminars and orientation programs. Such trainings are part and parcel of our school education department as well. Every year, millions of rupees are spent on teachers’ trainings to equip them with the latest pedagogies and knowledge of the teaching-learning process. It is indeed vital to acquaint our teachers with new and latest teaching methodologies, but this should not come across as an insult to teachers.
Very recently, my eyes caught sight of an order on a social media platform, issued by the Directorate of Samaghra Shiksha Abhiyan, stating that some 37,000 teachers of Jammu and Kashmir have to undergo a month-long training programme. For this, the order said, hundreds of master trainers and key resource persons have been selected to impart the training. To the surprise and dismay of the teachers of Jammu and Kashmir, the 37,000 teachers summoned for the training have been addressed as “untrained” and “unskilled”.
Why should teachers holding BEd and MEd degrees be called “untrained and unskilled”? These teachers are grooming children from the elementary level and many, if not most, of them are doing their best. These teachers are supposed to be untrained even after serving the education department for ten to fifteen years? Isn’t it derogatory? It is important to mention here that these teachers have been put to humiliation, derogatory remarks, and hardships in the past as well. The two-year-long standoff between these teachers and authorities had ended in August-September 2018 only after the Seventh Pay Commission emoluments were granted to these teachers. This particular teaching community has become a soft target for the people at the helm of affairs.
The SSA and Rehbar-i-Taleem teachers have time and again proven their mettle. We have these teachers serving in higher secondary schools, high schools, DIETs, and in other important offices. Most of our district resource persons (DRPs), zonal resource persons (ZRPs), cluster resource persons (CRPs) etc are from SSA or Rehbar-i-Taleem teachers. These teachers have even showcased their talents at state and national levels. Now the government is hell bent on tarnishing the dignity of these teachers for none of their fault. It will certainly de-motivate them from giving their best.
Blaming these teachers for poor academic standards is unfair because our academic standards were no better when the SSA was introduced in our state. Who is not aware about the conditions of our elementary schools in the decade of the 90s? If seen realistically, these SSA teachers have improved the elementary educational standards and increased the enrollment by many notches.
Targeting a particular teaching fraternity is disgusting and condemnable. Is a 10+2 pass laboratory bearer skilled and trained while a post-graduate, BEd teacher untrained and unskilled? This is the height of hypocrisy and double standards. It is a ploy to malign the image of a particular teaching community in society. This teaching fraternity is already the victim of unfair social connotations. Terms like SSA and ReT have become obnoxious to people because they have been portrayed as freeloaders and a burden on the system by those at the helm of affairs.
This approach of the authorities has often resulted in ugly deadlocks. Our children have already borne the brunt of this fruitless wrangling. Schools were closed for months together last year. But teachers were seen protesting in Srinagar and other district headquarters. If the authorities continue to call teachers untrained and unskilled, they may again hit the streets. God forbid, if there is another prolonged deadlock, who will be held responsible then?
The authorities should remove the terms “Untrained” and “Unskilled” from their latest order or invite only those teachers to the training who are either simple graduates or postgraduates without a BEd degree or from the 10+2 pass cadre. Also, the teachers from categories like general line, migrant teachers, and FAT teachers should also be asked to attend these trainings. Calling 37,000 teachers as unskilled and untrained is irresponsible. Don’t force these teachers to resort to the old tactic of leaving their schools and classrooms. Any indifference from authorities will have adverse consequences on our educational system. I wish good sense to prevail.
—The writer is a teacher and a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]