Kerala school installs CCTV, teachers allege it's to track if they sit even for a minute
Kerala school installs CCTV, teachers allege it's to track if they sit even for a minute

Kerala school installs CCTV, teachers allege it's to track if they sit even for a minute

The school principal who was summoned to an Adalat by the Kerala Women's Commission denies the allegations.

Lathika* was shocked and hurt to get a memo from the school at a time she had gone on medical leave. She has been working at the  Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Kodunganoor – a popular school in Thiruvananthapuram -- as a teacher for a long time. But in the last few years she alleges she had been having trouble with the principal’s overly-strict methods – continuous working hours and cameras installed in the school to prevent teachers from sitting down in the class for even a moment.

Lathika told TNM that she had to go on medical leave after being made to work in such difficult conditions, when teachers sometimes cannot even take a break during recess. “We would be assigned floor duty or canteen duty. I have had some health problems following this and that’s why I went on leave. But during the leave I was sent a memo accusing me of not making any alternate work arrangements during my absence. This has been a huge mental harassment,” she says.

She also narrated humiliating incidents when the principal allegedly commented that her ‘body language was not right’. “Several teachers have been forced to resign after such humiliating experiences. At least 32 teachers have resigned in the last three years since the principal took charge,” Lathika says.

Another staff member who doesn’t want to be named corroborated the number of teachers who resigned. “Yes so many teachers have resigned. The principal is trying to humiliate and force the older members of the staff resign and replace them with younger people. Whenever we raise a difficulty, we would be asked to quit if we have a problem with it.”

Based on her and a former teacher’s complaints against the principal, the Kerala Women’s Commission had summoned the school authorities to an Adalat in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. Commission member EM Radha also said that an investigation would be done at the school.

A release by the Women’s Commission says that in the complaint, the teachers mention CCTV cameras being installed in classrooms on the pretext of checking on the students, but it is used to monitor the teachers and give them memo if they sit down at all during class. There was also a practice of making small children sign complaints against the teachers who question these methods, the complainant teachers said to the Commission.

The school however claims that there is enough recess time for the teachers to sit. "One of the allegations raised is that the teachers need to stand and teach for eight hours. That's not right. Our working hours are from 8.20 am to 3 pm. That's less than 6.5 hours. Out of it there are three breaks, two of ten minutes each and one for lunch for 30 minutes. Teachers will be sitting along with the students and having lunch. Maximum, a teacher will get six periods a day. Sometimes they get extra classes when a teacher is on leave. If they have a health problem they can convey it to the HM and sit. But generally, we insist that they must stand and teach for classes to be effective. Cameras are installed in higher classes (6 to 12)," Principal Sunil Chacko told TNM.

Though the Principal makes it sound simple, teachers say that even commuting from one part of the school to another take time. Another teacher told TNM, “There are five big blocks of buildings and the classes are spread across them. The teachers running from one class to another may reach a couple of minutes late. But they would then be reprimanded for being late to class. And teachers are told they are directly accountable for anything the students do wrong. So if they don’t turn up for class, it is our fault. And added to these continuous hours of work – seven or eight hours a day of not sitting – there would be prolonged meetings. It is all too much of harassment.”

According to the Principal, the teachers who complain are those who wanted to do 'comfortable jobs'.  "The teachers who are complaining are those who want to be in the comfort zone and not passionate about their work," he said.

* Name changed

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