Unaided teachers at receiving end


Kozhikode: After the nurses’ strikes brought to light their pathetic working conditions, it’s now the turn of about 2 lakh school teachers in the 3,000-plus unaided schools in the state to raise the banner of revolt.
Despite recurring court verdicts and the intervention of various organizations and government agencies, the situation continues to be more or less the same. Though qualified, they are underpaid and subjected to  exploitation as they are neither given an appointment order nor a termination letter. A majority of teachers draw a meagre salary ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000.
Realizing the imminent surge of protests, various organizations have started mobilizing the unaided teaching community. Extended to state-level recently, the Kerala Unaided School Teachers and Staff Union (KUSTSU) which had been spearheading several agitations for the rights of teachers in the Malabar region, intervened to highlight the plight of teachers in about a dozen schools.
Under the banner of KUSTSU, a 31-day sit-in was held at Ever Green Public school, Meppayoor, Vadakara demanding salary hike in February. And the stir ended in success.
Last week at Presentation Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode, when teachers demanded a salary hike, the management terminated the service of a young teacher P. Suja, for signing in the memorandum. But to the embarrassment of the management the teacher started an indefinite sit-in in front of the school. She was soon  joined by two others.
Another teacher, Lissy Thomas, who joined the agitation said that despite serving the school for 24 years she was getting  just Rs 12,189 and when she asked for more, the management threatened her with ‘dire consequences’.
Interestingly, the High Court in 2012 had directed the CBSE/ICSE boards to immediately ensure a minimum monthly salary of Rs 10,000 for primary and middle school teachers and Rs 20,000 and above for senior secondary school teachers.
The court also directed that teachers should be allowed to operate their salary accounts through banks of their choice and that boards were to ensure that no manipulation took place with regard to payment of salary to teachers.
“But many managements still resort to tricks to bend the order,” said KUSTSU state secretary Venu Kakkattil. “To tide over the directive, some managements open accounts in the name of teachers and the principal keeps the ATM cards. The managements deposit the prescribed salary in the account while the principal’s agent withdraws the additional amount above the salary fixed by the management, through the ATM. A few managements deposit the money in the bank and get a cheque for the additional amount of salary fixed by the management duly signed by the teacher,” he added.
Kakkattil also said that most of the schools seldom issued proper appointment orders to teachers. This was done so that managements could terminate their service at short notice, it was pointed out. 
CITU: It’s only to ensure fair play
Kochi: The Centre of Indian Trade Unions has taken the initiative in forming a union of teachers and unaided schools in the state. “It’s only fair that we have a union to ensure that teachers are treated in a just manner,” said CITU state president Anathalavattom Anandan.
It was the very same scenario across private hospitals in the state where nurses were an exploited lot. A  statewide agitation came to their rescue and improved their lot. “The scene is no different when it comes to teachers in unaided schools and there have been umpteen cases of exploitation and this made us step in immediately,” he said.
On the CBSE management associations’ charge that the union was a move to destroy their system, Anandan said that when managements had associations, it was only fair that teachers too were allowed their legitimate right to form one.
The historic Education Bill of the first communist government in Kerala in 1957, had ensured a better status for aided school teachers, he said, adding that the present move was to ensure that teachers were given decent salaries from those schools that were charging hefty fees from students.
The Congress-backed Indian National Trade Union Congress is to convene a meeting in a few days to take stock of the situation. “We are aware of the plight of teachers and after the meeting, we will take necessary action,” said union president P.K.Gopalan.

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