Teachers have appealed to the government over pay cuts and say that they were not speaking up out of fear of job loss.

As schools and colleges refuse pay in Karnataka teachers staff left in the lurchRaja Stills / Picxy / Representation photo
Coronavirus Coronavirus Friday, May 15, 2020 - 19:26

Teachers from across Karnataka have started a petition asking the state government to take note of the struggles of teaching and non-teaching staff at private institutions.

Rajesh Bhatt, a member of the All India Save Education Committee, says that many school teachers, lecturers and non-teaching staff have not been paid for the last two months— March and April— causing distress and forcing many to dip into their savings.

They have demanded that the government announce a relief package for all teachers and lecturers working in private schools and colleges, including staff of colleges teaching professional courses and guest faculty working in government / aided colleges and schools.

The petition calls for a relief package for all non-teaching staff working in private schools and colleges, and in colleges teaching professional courses.

Finally, they have sought job security for all teaching, non-teaching staff and guest faculties.

The petition says, “The condition of the teaching community is so pathetic that it is difficult for them to eke out a living. There are more than 3 lakh such staff in the state. These include working teachers in unaided institutions, guest faculty in government schools and colleges, and private college lecturers. They get an average of Rs 3,000 to Rs 15,000 per month.

Teachers complain that their existing salaries are already low. Non-teaching staff, who are often unable to afford essentials, say that they would be forced onto the streets if the situation persists. 

Reports that private institutions may not open until August due to the COVID-19 pandemic has added to their anxieties. When institutions do eventually reopen, in order to compensate for the economic downturn, they may cut down staff members or force them to work for six months without pay, they fear. 

Guest lecturers

Most degree colleges have about 50 percent guest lecturers on their rolls, according to those who follow the sector closely. However, guest lecturers are among the first to face the axe when the time comes for layoffs.

Aishwarya is a guest lecturer who works for various degree colleges and teaches biotechnology. Due to lack of work, she has not been paid for months.

“I may be a gold medalist or a topper in my class and have a double degree with distinction. But without a job, I am struggling. Sometimes, I feel pathetic that I have to struggle so much after getting educated,” she says.

She points out that most institutions terminate guest lecturers every semester to circumvent government policy asking them to regularise those lecturers who have worked in the college for a particular amount of time.

“To avoid this responsibility, private colleges terminate me even before exams are announced and just after all my classes are finished. I have applied again to the same college during the next semester. Sometimes, a fresher who asks for a couple of thousand rupees less than I do is chosen over me,” she says.

This is why the All India Save Education Committee demands permanent jobs for all guest lecturers.

Degree colleges

But it’s not just the guest lecturers who face problems. Praveen*, a permanent lecturer at a private engineering college in Bengaluru, says that his salary has been cut too, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the lockdown, we have been taking online classes. But we were shocked to find that in our college, the teaching staff received a 40 percent salary cut, and the non-teaching staff (administration, library staff, cleaning staff) have received a 60 percent pay cut. Our salary isn’t that high to begin with and getting half your salary cut during such a time only causes more problems,” he tells TNM.

Praveen says that the college made students pay their fees for the next semester in February itself. 

“So the college has funds but it is not paying teachers, even though we have been working. We were shocked to find out about the pay cut when our salary was credited: the management didn’t even bother to keep us informed about such a decision,” he adds.

According to Praveen, even the principal of the college is reportedly helpless as his salary too was cut by 50 percent. “The HR is not responding to our queries and the management is also unresponsive,” he says.

School teachers

The situation isn’t much better in private schools.

Aishwarya says, “My husband is a teacher in a private school. But he has been told to wait until the admissions take place to get his dues.”

“On the one hand, we are getting pay cuts and denial of payments, and on the other hand, we are being asked to pay a hiked school fee for our children. Where is the justice in this?” Aishwarya asks.

Schools have recently come under fire for failing to comply with a government directive telling them not to hike fees for the upcoming academic year, 2020-21.

Read: Many private schools in Bengaluru hike fees, despite govt order barring it

Some school teachers say that they are afraid that they will lose their jobs and thus, are not demanding payment. 

Shreya, a teacher in a private school, says that layoffs have already begun. “I got my salary in February, and after that I haven’t received any payments. The school has told three teachers that their services won’t be needed in the upcoming academic year.”

She says that the school has informed her that she would get paid only after admissions resume. “The school management is not responding to our calls. We don’t even have an email address to register a formal complaint. The lockdown keeps on extending. How am I supposed to keep on existing without any salary for months?” she asks.

We are expecting that the lockdown will not be lifted until August because the state has not yet been able to flatten the curve. There are already rumours that the school might be closed because of the severe crunch. Such a move will leave hundreds of students to look for admission in other schools, all during a pandemic,” Shreya says.

She adds, “This is a tough situation, and we demand that the government take some action in terms of supporting teachers. Like farmers and labourers, we also have followed a noble profession, but we are paid minimum wages for it. It is high time that the government goes into the crowdsourced CM funds and PM funds to support all who are affected by this economic scenario.”

*name changed

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