The state-wide indefinite strike launched by para-teachers on Tuesday in protest against the government’s delay in regularising their services led to the shutdown of all 739 new primary schools (NPS) in East Singhbhum that are completely managed by them.
None of the para-teachers turned up at the schools, a scenario that was already foreseen by the local administration that asked the parents not to send their wards to class. As a result, the children stayed back at home, missing, along with studies, their midday meals — a key incentive for poor parents to send their wards to schools.
“The children were informed yesterday (Monday) that they need not come to school as the teachers would not be present to teach them. Accordingly, the children did not turn up today. Those delivering the midday meal prepared at the new centralised kitchen also went back after seeing that the school was locked,” said Behula Machhua, who sends her three children — Rahul, Pradeep and Puja — to Utkramit Nav Prathamik Vidyalaya, Machhuapara, in Mango.
Although each NPS teaches about 25 students on an average, the Machhuapara schools that runs from a hut has 45 children from classes I to V and two para-teachers. Other schools like Nav Prathamik Vidyalaya, Kunwar basti, Mango, and Nav Prathamik Vidyalaya at Kanubhatta, Bhuiyadih, also remained closed.
Para-teachers also did not take classes at the state-run middle schools, making their protest successful across the state. District superintendent of education (DSE) has asked all block education officers (BEO) to look into the matter and arrange teachers so that studies were not hampered at the NPSes.
“We will try to depute government teachers at these schools but the problem is that the number is not enough. Let’s see how we manage,” said Prayag Baitha, BEO, Jamshedpur-I circle.
Sanjay Tiku, director of the Iskcon foundation that manages the centralised kitchen for midday meals in 383 government schools in Jamshedpur and Seraikela-Kharsawan, confirmed that the food delivered by the centralised kitchen was returned in many places, as most schools remained closed.
“Some vans came up with the food as it cloud not be delivered at the schools because of the strike. The food will be now delivered to the piggery department,” he said.
The para-teachers, an army of graduates selected over the last 10 years under the largely Centre-sponsored Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), to fill-in at government schools, are demanding the immediate tabling of the Para-teachers’ Service Bill that would ensure respectable salaries.
Currently, an untrained para-teacher at the intermediate level is paid Rs 5,000 a month, while a trained one gets 5,500. A graduate para-teacher is given 6,000 per month. Once the bill is implemented, their salaries are expected to become three-fold. The teachers are adamant about continuing the strike till the government met their demands.