Address woes of teachers, schools

Address woes of teachers, schools

What teachers need is concrete action to alleviate their suffering. Credit: iStock

Teachers of private and unaided schools in Karnataka who have not been paid salaries during the pandemic are staring at a bleak future and the government’s failure to extend a helping hand may lead to the collapse of the education system itself in the state. While some prestigious private institutions may be flush with funds, ‘budget schools’ are struggling to meet day-to-day expenses including payment of salaries to teachers and even electricity bills, besides servicing loans. The ban on collecting school fees may have come as a relief to parents, with many going through job or salary cuts, but the government’s complete lack of concern towards teachers and private schools is both appalling and deplorable. According to the Karnataka Private Schools Association, over 55,000 teachers have lost their jobs while about a lakh are paid less than 50% of their salaries. While many teachers have shifted to other vocations like farming and some have been reduced to domestic helps, unable to make both ends meet, over 18,000 budget schools with no source of income may be forced to shut down.

It is unfortunate that the government which has announced a stimulus to revive the economy and a package for virtually every other section of the society, has left teachers high and dry. Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar has virtually washed his hands off and has expressed helplessness over the finance department’s refusal to approve a Rs 300 crore package for teachers and schools in distress. What the teachers need now is not the minister’s lip sympathy, but concrete action to alleviate their suffering. When the government has funds to set up boards for the development of various communities with an eye on the elections, it can surely find resources to come to the aid of educationists. Rs 300 crore is peanuts when compared to the state’s budget size of around Rs 2.4 lakh crore. Clearly, the will is lacking because teachers do not constitute a strong vote bank.

The government has adopted a short-sighted approach to the entire issue by failing to comprehend the impact this would have on the education system if thousands of budget private schools shut down or if teachers who have ventured into other vocations fail to return. There could be a situation where children will have no schools to go to, leading to a huge dropout rate, because the capacity at government-run institutions is woefully inadequate. Children represent the future of the country and if the government has just one last rupee to spare, it should be invested on the education sector.