Education June 30, 2020
Disabled Delhi government guest teachers struggle to make ends meet during lockdown
The plight of disabled guest teachers in Delhi government schools during lockdown is desperate. The extra classes held during the summer break were cancelled due to the lockdown, which means they have not earned any wages since May.
Lalit Sharma, a physically disabled person, teaches in the primary section of a Delhi government school since 2014. A contractual employee, he gets paid when the school is in session. In the summer holidays, guest teachers like him continue to earn wages as they take extra classes for weaker students under the Mission Buniyaad initiative.
This year no extra classes were held due to the lockdown. This means that over 20,000 contractual government school teachers in Delhi have been affected. The struggle to make ends meet is even harder for teachers like Lalit.
Summer break classes cancelled due to lockdown
“I don’t have hands and one leg which makes it that much harder for me to go and look for another job especially during a time like this”, says 30-year-old Lalit. “There is no news about when schools will reopen and when we will start earning again. My parents and two brothers depend on me. How long will my savings last?”
Surender Saini, a Hindi teacher to classes 6 t0 10 students in a Nangloi school, has taken up ajob stitching Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits to make ends meet.
“I took up this job about three weeks ago”, says Surender, who is disabled in one leg. “Seven people depend on me financially and it’s a struggle. I travel about eight kilometres a day which is risky given the pandemic but have no choice”. He earns ₹ 200-250 a day after working eight hours. “As a guest teacher I earned ₹ 1,400 per day after six hours of duty”.
Surender fears this will continue. “I doubt that contractual teachers will be included in the roster of teachers for online classes when they are announced so it’s best that I find another job”, he says.
Appeals to higher-level authorities
Contractual teachers’ representatives have appealed to higher level authorities in the education ministry but so far there has been no response.
COVID-19 comes under the Disaster Management Act and under this you cannot cut salaries or sack people at a time like this. The Act came into effect since 19 March and we have not received our salaries since 8 May. This is even after the Centre’s order on 20 May that contractual employees must be paid. If other government and municipal employees have received their salaries, so should we. Our contracts are still ongoing and valid.- Kunwar Shoaib Rana, General Secretary, All India Guest Teachers’ Association
The contractual teachers plan to hold protests and approach the Prime Minister’s Office if their appeals are not heard. “We are waiting for the schedule of online classes to be announced. If we are left out, we will appeal. The government is supposed to look after us at a time like this. If other government employees are being paid while they sit at their homes, why not us?”, asks Shoaib.
Regarding disabled employees, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 also lays down clear guidelines mandating their rights, points out Shamsuddin Jaffrabad, a permanent teacher in a municipal school.
“I can do other jobs like sell vegetables or fix punctures but for disabled teachers these options are not there”, says Shamsuddin, whose wife Munazaa is also a government schoolteacher and is disabled. “There should be some provisions made for disabled teachers and the RPWD Act is clear about this. There are over 20,000 contractual teachers in Delhi government schools, and they are the backbone of the system”.
The irony cuts deep given as the Aam Aadmi Party has been most vocal about the achievements of the government school system under its leadership. Yet, it has abandoned those most critical to this success – the teachers. Contrast this to other states like Haryana, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh which have issued orders protecting contractual teachers from wage losses.
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