SHILLONG, April 12: The indefinite strike that schoolteachers across the state have decided to embark upon from April 18 next will undoubtedly cost the students of Meghalaya dearly.
The unanimous decision for this indefinite strike was arrived at after a protest march sponsored under the banner of the Meghalaya SSA Schools’ Association (MSSASA) from Nongthymmai to a parking lot near the Additional Secretariat here in the city on Wednesday.
The teachers had made this decision after the state government had failed to meet their three point demand which includes the release of the revised pay of 12,481 SSA teachers and their arrears with effect from April 2016, salary enhancement of 1521 Fourth teachers which was pending since 2013 and a complete D.El.Ed (a 2-year teacher training course) results.
Thousands of teachers along with their children from across the Khasi-Jaintia and Garo Hills region took part in the rally.
The children who were part of the protest march carried with them placards bearing messages such as – ‘We are hungry, please pay salary to my mother’ and ‘Listen to the teachers’ demand and save the students’.
Apart from shouting anti-government slogans, the teacher protestors also burnt the effigy of the Chief Minister, Dr. Mukul Sangma towards the end of the meeting even as they demanded that the incumbent Minister of School Education and Literature Deborah Marak steps down.
“As per the suggestion of all the teachers, we have decided to go ahead with the indefinite strike of all the SSA schools from Tuesday onwards till we get our rights,” MSSASA president Aristotle C Rymbai said at the sidelines of the protest march.
He also said that the march was called after the deadline served to state government to comply with the demand of the association had expired on March 31.
Earlier while addressing the crowd, Rymbai termed the Congress led MUA – II government under the leadership of Dr. Sangma as one of the most ‘useless’ governments in the history of the state for its biggest failure in the Education sector.
“We also demand the Education Minister Deborah Marak to step down as we do not need such a leader who cannot address the issues concerning the teachers,” he said adding “This is because whenever we approach her, she (Marak) always give this excuse that the final decision is for the CM to take, which reflects that she is not fit to be in that chair.”
Condemning the government’s delay in releasing over Rs 100 crore revised pay and arrears of the SSA teachers, he said this was despite the fact that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had given direction to all states to first pay from their state budget.
“While other states have already completed the process, it is only here in Meghalaya where the state government is trying to shy away from taking this responsibility,” he said.
The Project Approval Board (PAB) last year had approved the revised pay of the SSA teachers teaching at lower primary and upper primary schools at Rs 19,044 and Rs 20,493 respectively. However, only trained teachers will be eligible for this as per RTE Act and NCTE norms.
As per the order of the State Mission Director on October 31, 2016, it was also stated that the teachers who are not qualified, the salary will be at Rs 13, 335 and Rs 14, 392 for LP and UP respectively. At present the SSA teachers in LP and UP schools are getting paid only Rs 9200 and Rs 9900.
On the issue pertaining to the 4th teacher, Rymbai said that the state government has failed to enhance the salary of the 4th teacher since 2013 and is left with a meager salary of only Rs 6000.
“If the government is quick in enhancing the salary of the MLAs then why is it delaying to do the same for the 4th teachers?” he questioned.
“Though we welcome the CM’s recent announcement for 100% salary enhancement for all categories of teachers, but he failed to indicate as to when the government is proposing to implement this decision and with effect from which year,” he added.
Further lambasting the government’s failure to address the problem related to delay in giving a complete result by the National Institute of Open School (NIOS) for past one year, the MSSASA chief said, “We highly suspect that this issue to be the next major education scam.”
Stating that the government is talking big about quality education, he however said that not a single teacher from 4000 teachers (batch 2013) who have gone for the Diploma in Elementary Education (D.El.Ed) conducted by the NIOS have received their certificates on completion of the training.
Moreover he said while PAB has approved another 8000 teachers for enrolling with the NIOS for the training programme, the CM on the contrary had stated that the same will be enrolled with IGNOU.