Many schools in the southern districts of Kerala –especially Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Alappuzha- now have more than one teacher for the same post, while many in Northern Kerala –especially Wayanad, Idukki and Kasargod- flaunt many vacant posts, with not even a single teacher posted for a subject.
This was not surprising as not many wanted to serve in government schools situated in remote corners of the inhospitable hilly terrains of Northern Kerala, as compared to the plains of southern Kerala.
A teacher from the Left’s Kerala School Teachers Association (KSTA) speaking on condition of anonymity shared an interesting fact with The News Minute: “There are around 800-900 such teachers who had served more than five years outside their home district. On the other hand, there are around 1500 teachers who have stayed put in their home-districts for almost ten years without ever having been transferred.”
There are at present around 400 government higher secondary schools in Kerala with almost 4000 teachers on the rolls.
The last time the state government had called for online applications for transfers was in November 2013. After a long gap, it was only in May 2015 that the process was renewed.
After discussions with various higher secondary teachers’ unions, the norms for general transfers were decided upon. It was accepted that teachers who had served for five years or more in their home district would be mandatorily transferred.
Following this, sometime in July-August last year, the teachers were asked to submit their choice of district in the first phase, while they were assured that in the second phase, they would have the option to choose from a list of schools with vacancies displayed on the website of the Directorate of Higher Secondary Education www.dhsekerala.gov.in
Trouble started with the government implementing only the first phase, where teachers were transferred without any prior intimation, apparently based on the choice of districts given.
That the transfers were not based on actual seniority worsened the brewing crisis.
Following widespread protests and based on a Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) directive, the state government formed a four-member committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary VS Senthil to look into the matter.
The committee decided that the post of a teacher who had put in five years of service in a particular school would be considered as an open vacancy and all such existing vacancies would be published online.
Based on the choices submitted, the committee said that a provisional list would be put out, and teachers would be given time to submit complaints if any.
The final list was then put out on January 18 with the state Education Minister PK Abdu Rabb verbally assuring the teachers that the transfers would come into effect only at the start of the new academic year in June this year.
The affected teachers now say that this list is not based on seniority but on priority grounds such as compassionate posting, physically handicapped, widows of armed forces’ personnel, spouse postings and even NRI postings now being introduced.
The last quota mentioned was introduced for the very first time, thereby giving the state education department the privilege of being the only government department to have such a quota in place.
Because of these various priority lists, many who were ranked higher in the general transfer rank list lost out to those who figured in the said priority lists.
We now have to take a look at the major players in this transfer game to get a clearer picture of the same.
With the Education Minister belonging to the Muslim League -the second largest constituent in the ruling United Democratic Front- naturally the League’s Kerala Higher Secondary School Teachers’ Union (KHSSTU) reportedly has the major say in the current political scenario.
Then there is the Left’s KSTA mentioned earlier, as well as the Congress-allied Higher Secondary School Teachers’ Association (HSSTA), the Government School Teachers’ Union (GSTU) and the Kerala Pradesh School Teachers’ Union (KPSTU).
It may be a matter of simply throwing mud at each other. But reports abound of loads of money changing hands with officials concerned reportedly cashing in on both sides.
It is said that bribes were apparently paid to go ahead with the transfers as well as stop them from taking place. An ideal “Caught between the devil and the deep sea” scene being played out.
Allegations are rife, with the various unions accusing each other of a concerted conspiracy by vested interests in resisting any move to transfer them out of their home-districts despite having never been transferred even once in their entire teaching career.
“This is especially true of teachers posted in the Cotton Hill Government Higher Secondary School in Thiruvananthapuram–considered as one of the plum postings- in Kerala. There is a very powerful political lobby at work there which resists any attempts of a transfer,” alleges a KSTA member.
This group of teachers -most of whose spouses hold positions in the Kerala Secretariat apparently- approach the law courts at every turn for stay orders so that the government is reportedly unable to implement the order at one go.
They have supposedly even catered for a change of political masters in case the Left comes to power in the upcoming Assembly elections in May on the reported assurance of fresh transfer norms being formulated which would apparently protect their own interests.
Foreseeing such a deadlock, KAT has now said that no fresh case filed will be considered till such time that the entire transfer process is actually implemented on ground.
That refreshingly is a smart move. So hope it’s finally check and mate, dear teachers.