Teachers enduring harsh lessons

- September 5, 2023
| By : Muhammad Tahir |

Ahead of Teachers’ Day on September 5, government school teachers in Delhi say they are burdened with extra work and often face threats from students

IN THE LINE OF FIRE: Many teachers report being threatened by students and their parents

Even though Teachers’ Day, which honour the role of teachers in the development of society and nation, is approaching on September 5, the state of teachers in Delhi’s government schools remains far from satisfactory.

The Delhi state government has claimed multiple times that it has established a world class school and education environment.

But the teachers differ and complain that they are overburdened due to shortage of staff and duties in fields they don’t specialise. They also say there is lack of respect.

“Shortage of teachers and extra burden on the existing staff are the main problems in schools. While things have improved at infrastructure level, there are big buildings and no problems related to funding, the teachers have been tasked with duties like census, BLO (Booth Level Officers) duty, handling mid-day meal, opening of students’ bank accounts, and emergency work like during the floods recently. This affects the well-being of teachers as well as their performance in classes,” said the Principal of a Government Senior Secondary School.

“The government should put teachers only in charge of education and the extra work should be given to other departments. Other duties distract the minds of teachers who obviously can’t focus on teaching. A teacher has 4-5 duties besides teaching. There is a shortage of 20% in teaching staff in Delhi schools. Teachers should be involved in education, and their morale should be kept high. Then only, we can call it a real Teachers’ Day,” the principal concluded.

An Urdu teacher of the same school says they are forced to do clerical work now, which he said, is unfair.

“We are not teachers anymore, but facilitators. The government is using us as facilitator. The government is putting us on documentation instead of teaching duty. The lack of clerical staff and MTS (multi-tasking staff) is the main problem. We do most of the clerical work here.”

A guest teacher was seen making a circular on the computer after his teaching period was over while the bell notifying end of periods is rung by the Urdu teacher.

Extra burden a big reason

“I did duty during floods and Covid — even issuing challans for not wearing masks on roads, besides door-to-door survey. We lag in syllabus because of all these duties. When we return from these duties, we have to recover. Earlier, we would complete the course in three months, now we have to complete it in one and half months. We can’t do justice to the subject and it impacts students’ learning,” the Urdu teacher complained further.

“Apart from this, a teacher can’t act strictly. Punishment has been banned, and we can’t even scold the students. As a result, they and sometimes their parents continuously misbehave with us. It affects the morale of the teacher. The students have no fear of teachers. If they don’t follow rules, we leave them. If the students are rewarded for good, they should be punished for bad,” he added.

A Hindi teacher narrated a similar story.

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“We celebrate ‘Teachers’ Day’ in the name of Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. He was not just a teacher but a philosopher. If we celebrate it in his name, then we should give the same level of respect to teachers,” he said.

“When we go out for duties other than teaching, we have to arrange another teacher for the class. It affects our syllabus teaching routine and also affects the students mentally. If they want to reform education, some provision should be made in favour of teachers.”

Another teacher said that there is rise in violence among students despite the much-hyped Happiness Curriculum.

“Despite new [happiness] curriculum and student counselling, violence is increasing in schools.”

Delhi government schools run in two shifts. The morning session is allotted to girls and the evening for boys. So, there are two principals in a school.

A government school in Okhla constituency has over 3,000 male students enrolled from nursery to twelfth.

Patriot met and talked to 15 teachers, and not a single teacher’s view was positive. Many said that they are not allowed to speak about their working conditions.

A teacher, who has been guest faculty here for the last four years, said, “Students lack respect towards teachers and threaten us. They stalk teachers outside the school if they are scolded in class. Their parents/guardians also support them. They disturb the class, there is lack of discipline and cooperation. It’s also painful because they all are the future.”

“Two students were fighting in Class 6. One suffered a rash. I interfered and separated both, but the parents of students alleged that I had hit him and demanded an apology. I didn’t apologise.

“Our staff also did not support me. I am just pulling through,” he added.

“The teachers are living in fear. Two months ago, a student threw a bag at a female colleague during a class. If we take action, then we have to face inquiry and students’ threats. We have no respect,” the teachers explained.

One of the teachers recalled an incident when a parent threatened by saying, “Eent se eent baja denge (I will shake the foundations of this school).”

“Students consume Ganja (marijuana), smoke cigarettes and are involved in other illegal activities inside the schools without any fear of retribution. We have no right to do or say anything. Teacher is the ‘weakest link’ in the school now. Hame Gandhi ji ka bandar bana diya (we have been turned into Gandhiji’s three monkeys – hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil). When school gets over in the evening, every teacher expresses relief,” said a guest teacher.

Misplaced priorities?

“They release circulars with deadlines so we have to do that work first before teaching. As many as 40% of the teachers are involved in other work and as a result of it, teaching suffers,” said one of the teachers.

One of the teachers also pointed out that the government’s target having 100% pass results is affecting quality and the students are graduating without any knowledge.

“I was part of a team of 250 teachers, who checked the demo copy of CBSE board papers for 10th standard. The average marks were 11/80. But the head examiner said that no one should fail. So, we gave all of them passing marks. As many as 70% passed on the border-line,” said a teacher, sharing his experience.

“They only seriously focus on some schools in Lutyens’ Delhi. If any world leader wants to visit, he’d be taken there, otherwise 90% of the government schools are not operating well.”

Political influence and no space

Involvement of local Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), who has a right to vote, is also being blamed. They say that the current state government has allowed MLA to become part of the School Management Committee (SMC). He now has a right to vote.

The SMC, a concept started eight years ago, is a 10-member committee, which includes principal, two teachers, MLA and six parents/guardians. The committee inspects the work of teachers.

“This is a hurdle. No benefit has come out of it except politicians unethically getting benefitted and disturbing teachers,” complained a teacher.

The classes are crammed, another teacher pointed out.

OVER-BURDENED: Non-teaching duties of teachers have increased from 30 (second column) to 90 (in 3rd, 4th and 5th columns)

“A class has 40 seats but there are 70-90 students in a class. How can a teacher adjust the class?”

A chemistry teacher added, “There are 200 students in each of the 11th and 12th classes. There is just one [chemistry] teacher for 400 students. The same situation is in physics. Lack of teachers is a big issue.”

Female teachers are also not safe. A couple of them shared their experience.

“There is indiscipline in school. Students use abusive language. Once, someone wrote a very vulgar word for me on the blackboard.  When I complained in the office, they said, ‘ignore karo (ignore them)’,” she revealed.

“Some students disturb in the class, use mobile phones, write abuses on corners, walls and benches. We made a mistake of joining this school. We have to just ignore and move on,” she concluded.

Other female teachers acknowledged the problems.

Patriot tried to speak with education minister Atishi Marlena but did not receive a response. Emails to Secretary (Education) Ashok Kumar and Director (Directorate of Education) Himanshu Gupta were unanswered.