Rs 500 for a 90-minute class, that too subject to availability of funds.
That is all that a Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) centre is willing to offer
for an assignment to tutor varsity students for which candidates who have cleared the National Eligibility Test (NET) are being sought.
A notice issued by the Centre of Arabic and African Studies under the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies at JNU for the appointment of “remedial tutors” has shone the spotlight on the meagre amount the university has been offering for such teaching assignments.
Several candidates and faculty members said such a sum, and the rider of availability of funds that signals the possibility of delayed payments, would demotivate youngsters keen on taking up teaching jobs.
The September 18 notice seeking applications for “remedial tutors” says: “An honorarium of Rs 500 per class of 90 minutes will be paid subject to availability of funds.” It also lays down the eligibility criterion of having cleared NET.
Research scholars at JNU usually take up such assignments, but any candidate who has cleared NET can apply.
Candidates take the NET after completing a master’s degree to become eligible to teach in colleges or universities.
The remuneration notified is much less than what the University Grants Commission (UGC) has fixed for the engagement of guest faculty in institutions. According to the UGC’s guidelines issued in 2019, the honorarium of a guest faculty is to be Rs 1,500 per lecture subject to a maximum of Rs 50,000 per month. One lecture refers to one hour of direct teaching.
Remedial tutors, engaged by JNU to bring students lagging behind up to speed, are not guest faculty, but the pay is exploitative, believe Abha Dev Habib, a faculty member at Miranda House College, and Rajesh Jha, who teaches at Rajdhani College. Remedial tutoring is mainly done by research scholars and is usually meant to give extra support to students from disadvantaged sections.
The remuneration is too low to attract talent, Habib and Jha pointed out. Habib said any institution hiring candidates for academic work should follow the UGC’s guidelines on guest faculty. “This is exploitation of candidates. Even though tutoring may not be teaching, the person will spend 90 minutes on the assignment,” she said.
The Centre of Arabic and African Studies offers courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The chairperson of the centre, Mujeebur Rahman, said students of first and second-year BA sometimes face difficulties in learning, and they are provided “extra help” by research students of the centre.
“It is a policy of the university to help students who are weak in their studies. This helps the weak students to improve academically and the research scholars can also earn while pursuing their studies. The university pays from its own funds,” Rahman said.
He said all the centres under the School of Language and Culture Studies offer the same remuneration. Most research scholars are awarded a fellowship of Rs 8,000 a month.
The Telegraph sent an email to JNU vice-chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit asking about the pay, but is yet to get a response.
Abhay Kumar, a guest faculty at a college affiliated to Delhi University, said the payment per class was demotivating and the mention of the condition of “subject to availability of funds” was “very dangerous”.
He said the dropout rate among students of Arabic studies was high and a remedial tutor was required to spend longer hours to guide them.
“If JNU pays Rs 500 for a 90-minute class, why should any candidate take interest or feel motivated?” Kumar asked.
He said Indian languages had been enriched by Arabic and therefore, learning the subject had a lot of significance for Indian students. The university should at least offer pay that was on a par with that given to guest faculty, he added.