Lisamma, a graduate with Bachelors degree in education, has been teaching at a private primary school in a village in Kannur district for the last eight years and earning Rs 5000 per month. "I was not able to crack Kerala Public Service examinations to secure a government job. Now at the age of 38, I earn Rs 5000 a month. I know that housemaids can earn more in Kerala. But being educated and with my passion for teaching, I continue in this job" she tells TNM asking not to reveal her identity as she wants to continue in her job.
Nisha was a teacher in another private school in Malappuram district, but was forced to resign when she got pregnant. "I was teaching at high school for three years. When I got pregnant, they asked me to resign and offered the job back after two years. After two years when i approached them, they said no vacancy and would inform me if there is any. Whom to complain, they might not even have records of me teaching there," Nisha, a postgraduate in Physics, says.
Low salary, no maternity leave, no allowances, gender bias, irregularities in provident fund are some of the problems that many private school teachers in Kerala face in their career. There were reports on Wednesday that the state government will soon implement a legislation to ensure minimum wages for private school teachers.
A bill for implementing minimum wages for this unorganised sector was first proposed in 2007. Later in 2016, a draft bill was framed to be passed in the assembly. But after that nothing happened.
However, Shajir Khan, vice president of Kerala Unaided School Teachers Association (KUSTO), said that present reports on minimum wages are just gimmicks at the time of bye-elections.
“It's been three years since the bill was framed, and it is yet to be implemented. Only 20 to 30% of private schools in Kerala provide minimum wages and other allowances to teachers," he said.
A teacher from a CBSE school in Kottayam, who sought anonymity, says, "We have to reach school by 7.30am. After the regular classes, we have to stay back in school till 6pm taking extra classes for below-average students. If we are found sitting in the classroom during exams or class hours, we are required to submit an explanation to the principal," she said.
As proposed in 2007 by then Education Minister MA Baby, the minimum pay for headmasters is Rs 7000, for high school teachers Rs 6000, for primary school teachers Rs 5000, and clerks Rs 4000. "You can imagine how low the amounts are and even this is not yet implemented in all schools. There are a lot of teachers who get less than Rs 4000 a month," Shajir said.
All the associations in the sector demand a minimum monthly provisional salary of Rs 10,000 for primary school teachers, Rs 15,000 for secondary school teachers, and Rs 20,000 for senior secondary teachers, as per what the Kerala High Court had ordered CBSE in 2012.
A senior secondary teacher gets about Rs 45000 as per the government scale.
"Apart from salary issues, most of the school managements are not happy with teachers getting married or pregnant, as they have to provide leave. In many schools, such teachers will be forced to resign," Shajir said.
Alleging that many managements don't pay their share to the provident fund, he said, "They just pay a share from teachers' salary, they don't put in their share.”
He said that only a proper legislation can save teachers from this pathetic situation.