Counting Covid bodies, scaring away locusts, gathering crowds for political events of the ruling BJP, counting toilets, distributing foodgrains. There are no different State agencies in Gujarat doing this — it is the teachers. Yes, teachers in Gujarat are roped in to do this. And wait, this is not all. Hold your breath — there are 100 sundry and errand jobs that government teachers do here.
Education — What is that? “We are made to do as many as 115 various works and a majority of them don’t fall under the duties of a teacher. We can understand some cleanlinesss and malaria awareness work for the students in the schools, but for that they have to leave us in the schools,” says Ghanshyam Patel, president of the Rashtriya Shaikshik Sangh. He pointed out that they had to fight even to get a decision of sudden increase in work hours reduced.
“It always takes a protest or a high court petition to move things in the Gujarat Government. It was only on Wednesday that the government had to withdraw its decision to extend the working hours of teachers to 8 hours from 6 following strong protests. They should first ensure that the rule is followed and we are not assigned non-teaching work.”
Teachers are made to do all kinds of things — they are involved in a 15-day hygiene celebrations, in Fit India Movement and in Covid-19 vaccination survey. Teachers also work to create a kitchen garden. Primary school teachers are being made to do work related to Aadhar card, Narmada Rath and Ekta Rath government yatras and various administrative works. Even during the e-inauguration of the new railway terminal in Gandhinagar by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, teachers were ferried in a train to Vadodara.
While the academic session of standard 6 to 8 started early this month, various circulars were issued by the education department to involve teachers in non-academic activities. The circulars ask them to take up work on Digital India campaign, kitchen garden, supervising mid-day meals, preparations for the Vice President’s program, election duty et al. “They expect us to do all this and also test our proficiency through Shikshak Sajjata Sarvekshan and want the best results!,” wonders Bhikhabhai Patel, a government teacher.
Rakesh Thaker, a functionary of the Rashtriya Shaikshik Sangh, told VoI, “The work of the block level officer has been assigned to us. We often have to work on Sundays. All these works have an impact on the future of the students.”They pointed out that Gujarat already has a shortage of teachers. There are an estimated 35 lakh primary school students with a teacher strength of 1.96 lakh primary teachers in the state. That means 18 students per teacher.
When asked, Gujarat Congress’ Chief Spokesperson Manish Doshi told VoI, “The government is forcing teachers to participate in BJP programs. It has led to the decline of Gujarat in the education sector. In 1995, Gujarat was ranked at the 9th position and now it has been pushed to the 21st position.”