Hyderabad: Private school and college teachers in Telangana observed National Teachers’ Day on September 5 as ‘Black Day’ by holding protest demonstrations across all district education offices in the state, marking their distress due to unpaid salaries during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, indiscriminate lay-offs and government’s apathy. The protest, called by Telangana Private Teachers Forum (TPTF), saw the participation of thousands of teachers who carried black flags and wore black badges.
There are 12,088 private schools across 31 districts in the state employing about 2.5 lakh teachers. According to the teachers’ associations, nearly 1.9 lakh private teachers have been laid off during the pandemic and 60% of the teachers have not been paid salaries since January this year. Further, there are about 1,498 private junior colleges and 600 private degree colleges in the states consisting of over 40,000 lecturers. According to an estimate by the Telugu daily Andhra Jyothy, 90% of private lecturers have been rendered jobless since the lockdown was imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The pandemic has worsened the situation of private teachers, said Sheik Shabbir Ali, president of TPTF, which has been raising the problems faced by the teachers. “Even before the pandemic hit, the teachers in private schools and colleges were deprived of basic rights such as Provident Fund, insurance cover, minimum wages and so on. After the COVID-19 outbreak, most of the management have chosen to not pay salaries and laid off the majority of their employees despite government’s directions, eventually forcing teachers to become daily wage labourers, agricultural labourers, sales men or women in small retail shops and etc., for the sustenance of their families,” he added.
The teachers want the government to ensure that the management pays complete salaries for the unpaid months or provides unemployment allowance of Rs 10,000 per month till they rejoin the work. They have also demanded that the government must appoint a regulatory committee for addressing the problems of private teachers; ensure ESI, Provident Fund and insurance coverage; and encourage private teachers with teachers’ awards which is currently given only to the teachers in government schools.
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As the Assembly session is set to begin from September 7, groups of private teachers have separately met all the members of legislative assembly (MLAs) and urged them to consider their demands in the Assembly.
“The teachers have held numerous protests in the last three months at the district collectorate, in front of schools and at the residences of lawmakers. However, there has been no assurance on the demands of the private teachers from the government’s side. This will only force teachers to switch their profession,” Ali said.
“Teachers had faced massive financial problems during the lockdown due to unpaid salaries. We were hopeful that our jobs would be secure after schools reopen but many schools are not re-employing their staff,” said Lakshmi, a private teacher from Hyderabad’s Musapet.
According to numerous reports, since April this year, thousands of private teachers have begun selling fruits, mirchi bajjis (chilli fritters), vegetables, working as construction labourers, agricultural labourers and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers among others.
MD Rashid Pasha lost his job as a guest faculty in Warangal Government Degree College after working in the post for the last seven years. As he couldn’t find employment in the education sector, he said that he has recently started selling tea in the town for the livelihood of his family.
Reportedly, about 16,000 Vidya Volunteers (temporary teachers) in government schools have lost their jobs post lockdown. Trade unions have criticised the government for not filling the vacant teachers posts in the government schools but running them by employing temporary teachers.
Also read: COVID-19: Telangana Govt Grossly Under-Reporting Cases, Say Activists