If you had gone to Government Model Higher Primary School in Kasaba Bengre in Mangaluru on Wednesday, you would have found scores of children sitting under a tree on the premises. No, it wasn’t an outdoor study session. It was a protest.
“Teachers beku! Teachers beku! (We want teachers!)”, about 100 students from class 1 to class 7 chanted. "Namma teachers namage beku! (We want our teachers!) Beda beda vargavane beda!" (We don’t want transfer!)”
What prompted this protest was the shock the students experienced when they returned to school after Dasara holidays and found out that five of the eleven school teachers had been transferred elsewhere.
The protests are backed by the School Development and Monitoring Committee (SDMC) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).
“The school will not be able to manage with just six teachers when there are over 400 students studying here," says Rizwan, a member of the SDMC.
The dearth of teachers at the school was caused by the compulsory transfers of five school teachers - Millie Carmine, Shubha, Sunita Flavia D'Souza, Veronica J D'Souza and Veronica I D'Souza. All five teachers were transferred to schools in Puttur taluk of the district.
According to the Mangaluru Block Education Officer (BEO), the Education Department will replace the teachers who were transferred with guest teachers until the end of the academic year and finalise permanent replacements by March 2020.
"The Department spoke to the school officials and agreed to arrange for qualified guest teachers to fill in this academic year. We also told the SDMC that the vacancies will be filled before March and to be patient until then. But the school was insistent that they either want the same teachers to be reinstated in the school or have permanent, experienced teachers to replace those transferred," says Manjula, BEO, Mangaluru. They rejected the proposition of guest teachers filling in at the school, Manjula added.
There have been issues with appointments of teachers earlier as well. "For the last three years, one of the teachers at the school had taken charge as the headmistress since no one was posted after her predecessor’s retirement in 2016. We have also not had a physical education teacher for the last two months," says Rizwan.
Activists say that transfer of teachers during the academic year adversely affects the studies of students and urged the Education Department to revoke the transfer of the teachers. "Unlike transfer of IAS officials, here we are talking about teachers who are interacting with young students who are impressionable. The students have a close rapport with teachers and any changes made during the year will affect the students and their studies. They are not robots to quickly adapt to a new set of teachers," explains Arun Prasad, an activist.
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 states that the pupil teacher ratio for upper primary schools should be 35:1, and for primary schools, it should be 30:1. At Kasaba Bengre, the pupil teacher ratio at present is 66:1.