All does not seem to be well with the Assam Education Department. Angst and protests by teachers and students have marred the image of this hallowed department which should have been free of any lacunae whatsoever.
Recently, TET teachers had staged a huge dharna at Dispur demanding that those TET-passed contractual teachers who had not been regularised since 2012 be made permanent immediately. The teachers had also demanded higher wages.
Prior to that, teachers who had been appointed on a contractual basis in 2010, especially to fill up posts in the Science, Maths and English subjects lying vacant for years in high schools, also staged a protest in front of the Inspector of Schools offices in different districts.
The teachers had earlier moved the Gauhati High Court to be regularised but later withdrew the case on assurance of the then Education Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma. However, the criteria set for regularisation was a 50 per cent pass percentage in graduate and B Ed degree. When details of the qualification were called from the respective institutes to which they had been appointed, many of the teachers did not meet the criteria.
The question hangs like the Sword of Damocles over them vis-a-vis what would happen to these teachers. They could not be retained on contract as per the verdict of the Supreme Court in the Gayatri Devi case and sacking them would leave them high and dry -without jobs at an age when they would not get employment easily.
A teacher, requesting anonymity, said, “This is great injustice. We had been appointed by a committee headed by Deputy Commissioners of the respective districts, and which included headmaster of the institutes and other officials of the district administration including the Inspector of Schools. I do not know whether a few were appointed for some other subjects apart from the ones cited but now it is being found that some of us do not fulfil the criteria to be made permanent,” the teacher said.
The teacher further said that the percentage should be relaxed to at least 45 per cent as those of us who had passed from Dibrugarh University prior to the semester system secured very low percentages, the University having a reputation of “not being liberal” with marks.
The teacher continued that while talking about a B Ed degree this was also unfair as a large number of those who had been appointed to schools prior to 2003 had not yet attained this degree and were working and drawing the Seventh Pay Commission scale. This, despite a circular from the Centre in 2003 making it mandatory for teachers to attain
B Ed degree. “From 2003 to 2018, a period of 15 years, these teachers have not bothered to pass this exam. Why has the Government not taken any action against them till now?” the teacher questioned.
She further argued, “If B Ed is mandatory to become permanent, then the teachers employed on a permanent basis (without a B Ed degree) should be the first to be taken to task as per the Centre’s notification, especially the subject teachers, maximum of who do not have this degree.”
Another teacher, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that teaching in most Government schools were “not up to the mark” and it was seen in some instances that they showed a pass percentage, not because any student had passed from that school, but because a private English or Assamese-medium school had been attached to the Government school and students of the latter have to appear for HSLC from the Government school.
The students of good private schools who had to sit for their exams in the Government school as their respective schools were yet to get permission for holding HSLC examinations, passed with good percentages but were shown in records to have passed out from the Government school, the teacher further added.
As regards the Assam Women’s University, along with the Vice-Chancellor and six other posts including Registrar, Comptroller, etc., yet to be created, there is apprehension that admissions might be affected. The State Education Minister, Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, had said recently that seven posts had been sent to the Finance Ministry, headed by Himanta Biswa Sarma, for sanction.
A source questioned why it was taking the Ministry so long to sanction these posts and was it because Sarma who was the Education Minister till a couple of months ago was opposed to the idea of converting this varsity into a women’s Institute? Sarma had also gone on record to state that the mentor could not run the university nor was authorised to issue the pass certificates of the two batches of students who had passed out, falling short of saying that they were illegal.
His statement had triggered widespread agitation among the student organisations of the State, hunger strike by students of the university and support from all over India and abroad towards ‘Save Assam Women’s University’ campaign started by the students on Facebook.
The source said that very few admission forms were taken in the first week of July and only after the undergraduate results are declared in the last week of July, would a clear picture emerge as to how interested students are to study in Assam Women’s University.
“Since the Vice-Chancellor and other officials have not been appointed as yet, the University after so much controversy has already lost its pristine sheen notwithstanding the fact that it is UGC-recognised,” the source added.