Plight of SSA teachers a humanitarian crisis, will harm quality of schooling in Meghalaya

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Protesting Meghalaya’s SSA teachers. File Photo.

Aristotle C Rymbai

As one among of the aggrieved SSA teacher I know the plight of the teachers working under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in the state, who routinely remain without salaries for four to five months. SSA teachers plight is ignored, their pleas not heeded and it is unbelievable to see that the 12541 SSA Teachers teaching in 2907 Lower Primary Schools and 2232 Upper Primary Schools across the State of Meghalaya are working and performing their duties without Salary since November 2018 till date.

Due to various family issues, concerns and the uncertainty of the job and no money, SSA teachers have been deprived of sleep, peace of mind and made them restless, especially at this point of time when parents (SSA teachers) have to pay for their kids admission fees, school fees and many more has put the SSA Teachers into depression and if this continues for another one to two months it’s turning out to be a humanitarian crisis and this will harm the quality of schooling in Meghalaya.

Moreover, about 95 per cent of SSA teachers have no other means of income than the salary. However, unfortunately, it seems that these teachers are presumed to have other means of income as well, putting them into further trouble because no one believes that they are living a miserable life in the absence of their salaries. The truth is that the financial position of these teachers is extremely bad and it’s a challenge to manage and maintain their own requirements and families’ livelihood.

What hurts the most is that the education department time and again releases salary for these teachers after a gap of four to five months. This salary goes to debtors like banks, leaving these teachers without a penny. The SSA teachers are on the verge of starvation and no one is paying heed to the grievances of these teachers.

Time and again on several occasions and functions, state government talks of “quality education” and “education is a top most priority” but it is very sad to see SSA teachers, who are the back bones of education at the grass roots level, are working without salary for months. In this condition and situation, how does state government expect to get quality education if problems of teachers are not being taking care of.

SSA teachers have been without salary for the last four months and no immediate solution seems visible till date. Everybody knows that nobody goes into teaching to get rich, but teachers don’t expect to be suffered and penalized for their chosen profession. It’s not only an issue of 12541 SSA teachers but also a question of survival of thousands of people that comprise the families of these teachers. It’s the most delicate issue of education of scores of children and survival of elderly parents of these teachers who are suffering for no reason.

Also, it may be mentioned that in the notification issued by Secretary, MHRD Department of School Education & Literacy, Govt of India, to Chief Secretary, Govt of Meghalaya, on February 2017, it is clearly mentioned “on the acceptance of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, the State Government is directed to ensure allocation of adequate amount for the school education sector in the State Budget which would also support the effective implementation of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes including SSA Programme”. But surprisingly, in our State whenever the Association met the Authority concerned and State Government for discussion on the agenda of pending dues of SSA teachers, their reply is ‘funds is not available as Govt of India has not released the funds and budget provision for implementation of SSA programme is nil’, although the fact is that all such programmes are pre-planned.

Blame game will not solve the problems, therefore, I urge the State Government for allocation of adequate budget from the State Budget for Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in the coming budget session of the state government so that these problems will not repeat in future.

It may be mention on February 20 the Government of Meghalaya has been served a legal notice by the advocate representing Meghalaya SSA School Association (MSSASA) for unconditional delay in releasing the arrears of SSA teachers’ salary since July 1, 2016 until February 28, 2017 of financial year 2016-17.

The author of this article is the President of the Meghalaya SSA School Association (MSSASA).