Non-renewal contracts leave govt school teachers in the lurch
By Mansi Verma and Shriya Handoo
In a move to meet the dearth of school teachers, the civic body of Delhi government has re-appointed 586 contractual teachers under the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). The contracts of these teachers were delayed and not renewed by the civic body. The government attributed to reason of COVID-19 pandemic struck which rendered them jobless.
Over a thousand contractual school teachers in the capital have been rendered jobless since the last 17 months as both the North and South Delhi Municipal Corporations failed to renew their contracts. They received their last salary on May 8, 2020. In addition, it has irrationally hiked the students-teachers ratio which further questioned the positioning of new education policy of the Indian government. Their contracts were up for renewal in May 2021. Teachers confirmed that that they went to the municipal offices numerous times to enquire about it only to be told to come in later. No specific reason was given for the non-renewal of contracts and they were also not served termination notices.
Ironically, many of these teachers had helped in the distribution of ration during the pandemic and were considered frontline workers. On the condition of anonymity, one teacher opinioned,
“I used to teach in the online mode even after our contracts lapsed. Unofficially, we never stopped working. Neither are we counted as teachers anymore, nor are we remunerated for the same.”
Another teacher, Tanu, who has taught for 11 years at the SDMC Primary Boys School, New Delhi, said, “We visited the Municipal Corporation of Delhi office to enquire about the status of our contracts, but they kept asking us to come later and kept extending the dates again and again.” However, officials are treating the issue in a matter-of-fact way without considering how the pandemic has played havoc with thousands of households where many of these teachers were the sole breadwinners. One of them from the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) died of suicide as he could not meet his requirements after so many months of unemployment.
One of the officials from Education Department of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation said, “We are not bound to another renew the contracts every year. Due to the pandemic, the schools have remained closed this year. So why is there a need to get these teachers on a contractual basis?” However, Tanu who is also a representative from the Contractual Teachers’ Welfare Association, Delhi said, “Last time when we went to the Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor’s office, they assured us that our contracts would be renewed by October 7th. We are still waiting.”
Saurabh Bhardwaj, AAP National Spokesperson, has publicly claimed for the past one-and-a-half years that the NDMC has not been providing education to primary school students and has therefore not renewed the contracts. It has now become a political hot potato. Praveen Shankar Kapoor, spokesperson of the Delhi BJP, blamed the Arvind Kejriwal government and said that the state government had stopped paying salaries of contractual teachers in May 2020, after which the NDMC had no option but to suspend their contracts.
The tragic story involving thousands of teachers and their struggling households has snowballed into an uncertain future. As civic bodies and political parties play out their murky games, the wait seems to be unending for the traumatized teachers.
Mansi Verma and Shriya Handoo are pursuing their master’s programme in Mass Communication in Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC), Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune.