Revathy*, a teacher in a private institution in Tamil Nadu, says that she has not been paid her wages for the past three months and is yet to receive a communication from her school about when she will receive her next salary. Facing a severe financial crisis and with her own son’s school fees due, Revathy says that the coronavirus is confining her at home without letting her do odd jobs to eke out a livelihood.
Yet, she says that she continues to enquire with people if she can set up a vegetable or fruit stall near her house, in a move to make ends meet.
This is not the case with Revathy alone. Five lakh private school teachers in the state who have been left without pay amid the COVID-19 pandemic are facing a similar situation, say members of teachers’ associations.
The teachers say that most of them stopped receiving salaries after April, once the lockdown was announced. Private educational institutions on the other hand, say that they are unable to pay salaries as they have not received any fees from students. A lack of government support has left many teachers struggling financially, they allege.
To gain the attention of the state government, over 5,000 teachers gathered at the premises of their respective schools and in front of their homes on Friday, staging a fast and demanding that the government provide some relief.
“Over 5 lakh teachers working in 16,000 registered private schools of Tamil Nadu have been affected due to the non-payment of salaries. Many teachers are having only rice availed by ration cards and are living in poor conditions. Many staff members have started working at factories near their homes,” said Krishna Raj, state Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Nursery, Primary, Matriculation and Higher Secondary Schools Welfare Association.
The teachers on Friday kept a slew of demands before the government.
Nandakumar, a secretary with the same association said, “We demand that the government give Rs 10,000 as compensation for all private school teaching and non-teaching staff in the state. Many people who lost their livelihood due to coronavirus have received their salary through welfare associations set up by the state government. We don’t even have that. Hence, we demand that the government set up an association for private school teachers.”
The teachers also point out that the government is yet to disburse funds under Right to Education (RTE), for enrolling students, for the past two academic years.
“The government should give 45% of the funds from 2018 and the full funds of RTE in 2019. If the government disburses these funds, then many of the schools will be able to float through the crisis,” Nandakumar said.
Adding to this, Krishna Raj said, “Since parents are also reeling under a financial crisis, the government should provide free textbooks to children studying in our schools.”