Hundreds of university students and research scholars from all over West Bengal took out a march in Kolkata on Monday, September 23, under the banner of United Students’ and Research Scholars’ Association (URSRA) demanding that the state government revoke the post of State Aided College Teacher (SACT) that have been created to regularise the guest teachers working in various government colleges and universities across the state.
On August 19, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee had announced in a meeting that all the contractual whole time teachers (CWTTs), part time teachers (PTTs) and guest teachers will be regularised under a new program, and will be appointed as SACTs.
The students of post-graduate courses and research scholars from across the state have strongly opposed this move. URSRA said in a statement, “The foundation of the education system in the state has been damaged for years. Now, the state government is trying to completely destroy it, and the ordinary people do not know about it. We are organising this march so that these issues can be brought to light.”
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In colleges and universities in West Bengal, assistant professors are recruited through the College Service Commission (CSC) or Public Service Commission (PSC). For a teacher to be recruited as an Assistant Professor, they need to clear the National Eligibility Test (NET) or the State Eligibility Test (SET), and to appear for either of these tests, a person needs to have atleast 55% marks in their postgraduate courses. According to URSRA, with some of the colleges in Kolkata as exceptions, barely any of the colleges in the outskirts of the city have any assistant professors. CWTTs, PPTs, and guest teachers are appointed by the government to compensate for the lack of assistant professors.
URSRA said in a statement, “However, most of these contractual teachers or guest teacher do not have the qualifications needed to teach university students. They do not have to clear any eligibility tests. They have been teaching in the universities for years, and no one has done anything to stop them. As a result of this, the quality of education in universities have fallen significantly.”
They added, “The colleges have been asked by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to make recruitments for permanent teachers under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). Instead of following the direction, the state government is trying to regularise the underqualified teachers.” They have also alleged that most of the recruitments for the posts of contractual and guest teachers happen illegally.
According to URSRA, regularisation of these teachers would lead to a significant decrease in the number of seats where recruitments would be made through NET and SET. They said, “This will ruin the future of the people who are preparing for the eligibility tests, and of the scholars who are doctoral or postdoctoral students and want to become professors upon completing their degrees.”
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URSRA has demanded that the state government follow the UGC guidelines for recruitments of permanent teachers, and the recruitments be made through CSC. They have also demanded that the government reveal the vacancies across colleges in the state, instead of unjustly creating new posts for regularisation of contractual and guest teachers.