Para-Teachers in Bihar Neither Here Nor There

The report of the Bihar Education Quality Mission which was made public a few months ago contained some shocking facts. In 85 per cent classrooms of the state there are no black boards. 44 per cent teachers remain absent from schools and 70 per cent schools do not even perform prayers. As soon as Nitish Kumar came to power, he tried to show his concern for education and took the ill advised decision of hiring teachers on a contract basis. The process of recruiting teachers started on a large scale. Initially, this responsibility was given to the representatives of the Panchayat but in this corruption was found on a large scale. This initial process of appointments started on the basis of marks. A decision to upgrade the schools was also made. Primary schools were upgraded to Secondary Schools and Secondary Schools were upgraded to Higher Secondary Schools. In 2003, it was decided that along with the up-gradation of schools, two trained graduate teachers and a permanent headmaster will also be recruited for those schools. But unfortunately, a majority of the upgraded schools are still waiting for this to happen. Crores of rupees were allocated for the up-gradation of the schools which covered construction of buildings, text books, construction of sports amenities and laboratories, but this money was unequally distributed.
It is because of this background that the agitation of the para-teachers and the ‘Adhikar Yatra’ of the Chief Minister are the two issues which are currently major topics of discussion in Bihar. The protestors started by showing slippers (footwear) in Madhubani. After that, students were seen running with black flags alongside the convoy of Nitish Kumar. The height of the agitation was reached when the public, disillusioned with the slogans of development, set fire to the welcome arch and threw stones at Nitish in Khagaria. Approximately 3 lakhs para-teachers who were once the favoured ones for Nitish are now protesting against him. These para-teachers, who are supposed to get 5000 to 7000 rupees per month, don’t get their payments on time. Their social status is such that even ordinary grocery keepers ask them for arrears. Now students too have been heard commenting, ‘Gets only 5000 rupees and still speaks loudly.’

On the other hand, there is a class of teachers who gets handsome salaries. That is why there is no unity among the teachers. Although the para-teachers are more in number, they consider themselves ignored, due to which the education they impart is also affected. The status of the teachers in Bihar was never so ridiculous and ignored. A list of trained teachers was made and appointments were done on the basis of that list. After that, on the basis of competition, 25 thousand teachers were re-appointed. The second re-appointment was done in 1999 but it was only for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates. Ten thousands teachers were re-appointed in 2000. After that, the Bihar Public Service Commission (BPSC) asked for a proposal for the fourth re-appointment, but the matter was put in cold storage. In 2003, the State Government created the post of ‘Shiksha Mitra’ (Education Friend). The jumble started from here. In every school of a Panchayat, a ‘Shiksha Mitra’ was recruited on a payment of Rs. 1500. An agreement for 11 months was made on a 100 rupees Non-Judicial stamp paper, in which it was mentioned that service extension could be done three times at maximum.

After this, Nitish Kumar came to power with the promise that he will re-appoint trained teachers. For the first time in November 2005, the ‘Shiksha Mitras’ protested strongly at Patna. During the elections too Nitish made promises to them. A very large number of untrained teachers had collected in the schools. The Government of Nitish Kumar was ordered for the first time by the Centre and ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ (The Education for All Movement) to train those teachers. In this connection, the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and the National Open University (NOU) were contacted, but they replied that they have training provisions only for teachers and not for the ‘Shiksha Mitras.’ Thereafter, the ‘Bihar Teacher Niyojan Niyamavali (manual)-2006’ was made for the Panchayat, block and city level, according to which the ‘Shiksha Mitras’ were appointed as teachers and their service duration was increased up to 60 years. During this period several re-appointments were made. In the meantime the trained teachers appealed to the court that they were not appointed, they were employed. For four years, Nitish Kumar presented different types of pleas against the employment of these trained teachers. At last, after a strong blow from the Supreme Court, 34,540 teachers were re-appointed in 2011.
The Government had already made another mistake earlier in 2006. It said that after a teacher retires, the post will cease to exist. The manual was revised firstly in 2008 and then in 2012. All the above mentioned modifications and manual are enough for illustrating that the Government does not have any solid planning for education. After protests by the Opposition, a proficiency examination of the teachers was conducted, but it was only for show. Educationist Anil Sadgopal is against the re-appointment of teachers on contract basis and also against the honorarium that the teachers are getting. He said how we can recruit them on contract basis those on whom the future of our children depends?
The para-teachers played an important role in the victory of Nitish Kumar in the elections, but now when the para-teachers are demanding their rights from him, he gets annoyed and shouts at them. Before the ‘Adhikar Yatra’ i.e., in the ‘Seva Yatra,’ Nitish Kumar had also faced protests from the para-teachers. This time, Nitish as well as the para-teachers both became aggressive. The All India Students Association also protested against Nitish Kumar in Begusarai. On the next day, a case was filed against 13 known and 200 unknown teachers. The President of the Bihar Secondary School Teachers Association (BSSTA), Shatrughna Prasad Singh said that the entire incident is very unfortunate. He said that in relation to the re-appointment of teachers, no discussions were held with the Association, so the Association is protesting against re-appointments. He said that the para-teachers are not organised and disciplined, that is why they are being suppressed. The newly appointed Vice President of the Bihar High School Teachers Association, Naveen Kumar does not agree with these statements. He said that only those who are appointed can be the leader of the appointed teachers. The Association cannot fight our battle. They fight for the facilities and we are fighting for survival.

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