| Meghalaya deputy chief minister R.C. Laloo at a World Literacy Day function in Shillong on Friday. Picture by UB Photos |
Shillong, Sept. 13: School and college teachers in Meghalaya today threw the ball into the court of chief minister Mukul Sangma: either he should lend them an ear or they would resort to an indefinite strike from September 25.
Teachers of deficit and ad hoc educational institutions, under the banner of Joint Action Committee of All Teachers’ Associations of Meghalaya, have been on strike since Wednesday. The teachers have already observed a series of agitation since August, adversely affecting students across the state.
The committee chairman, E.D. Nongsiang, told reporters here today that the teachers would return to their schools and colleges from Monday but will not shy away from observing an indefinite strike from September 25 in case the chief minister turns a deaf ear to their requests for a meeting.
The association wrote to Sangma today requesting him to discuss their various demands after deputy chief minister Roytre Christopher Laloo, who also holds the education portfolio, did not invite them for talks even after repeated pleas.
“We will wait for a reply from the chief minister till September 23 and if nothing is forthcoming, we will march to the state secretariat on September 24 and go on an indefinite strike from September 25 onwards,” Nongsiang said.
He said the teachers have been writing to Laloo since May last year requesting him to meet them. Another letter was sent in May this year followed by a reminder in August. “But even then we have not received any invitation to meet him (Laloo),” he said.
Nongsiang also appealed to the students and parents to be patient, as the “fight will eventually benefit the student community”. “We know that our agitation has affected the students. But we appeal to them and their wards to be patient with us. If the teachers’ welfare is not looked after, then the students’ interests will also get impaired,” he added.
For the past few months, the teachers have been trying to hold talks with policy makers to discuss reforms in the Meghalaya Board of School Education (MBOSE), regular payment of salaries to teachers, and provincialisation of teachers’ services.
“We want the government to provincialise the services of all deficit and ad hoc teachers and bring them at par with regular teachers. But we do not want the government to take over the schools as we know that once this happens, the future of the schools will be grim,” Nongsiang said.
The teachers, however, warded off a query when asked whether they would demand the removal of Laloo as education minister. “That (taking away of the education portfolio from Laloo) is the prerogative of the chief minister,” Nongsiang said, while making it clear that from now they will turn down any talks offer that comes directly from the deputy chief minister.
Out of 4,047 schools, 2,193 are under the deficit system having a total of 6,603 teachers, while 1,854 schools are ad hoc, having 7,076 teachers.
The first phase of agitation by the teachers began with wearing of black badges on August 27, followed by a pen-down strike on August 29.
Education department reacts: The state education department today reacted to the demands of the school and college teachers and said that it was “sincere in its commitment” to improve the “quality and equity” of education, and that is was open to suggestions which would pave the way for long-lasting reforms.
The directorate of school education and literacy, in a communiqué, said the demand for provincialisation of government-aided schools would need to be sorted out with the respective sponsoring bodies and managing committees first. Government-aided schools are those which fall under the deficit and ad hoc systems. However, the demand of the teachers is not to provincialise such schools, but for the government to provincialise only their services.
The communiqué stated that salaries are directly disbursed to the respective managing committees who are the “employers” of the teachers covered under the deficit ad hoc systems. However, the delays in the disbursement, the communiqué stated, could be due to procedural formalities at the level of the district office and school managing committees.
The state education policy, the directorate said while the state cabinet had approved the policy on January 19, 2009, the advent of the RTE Act, 2009, has made it binding on the government to revise the policy and incorporate the objectives of the act within the policy.
The teaching community will also be invited to send its suggestions and inputs to improve the draft policy.