Teachers have always been known to be second parents to children – their presence boosting the morale of students, guiding, and moulding them into better human beings. A teacher imparts knowledge, good values, traditions and channels a child’s mental ability to overcome challenges in life.
In the field of education, teachers are no less than a storage house of information and knowledge that are key to shaping a child’s future. They help students understand knowlede and concepts that are outside the context of a textbook. Teachers help guide students into understanding their strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to channel their talents and skills to expose themselves without any inhibitions. Their role in a student’s life is immeasurable and cannot just be said in a mere few words.
Teaching is a noble profession, one that brings one respect no matter where they go. But why is it that teachers in Meghalaya are seen to be protesting out in the streets? Over the past few years, we have seen SSA teachers protesting and coming out in the streets, demanding for release of their pending salaries.
The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was launched in 2001 by the Central government as a flagship programme aimed at achieving universalisation of elementary education by making free and compulsory education to children between the ages of 6 and 14 a fundamental right. Meghalaya has of 12,541 SSA teachers of whom 5814 are Lower Primary teachers and 6727 are Upper Primary teachers. The Meghalaya SSA School Association (MSSASA) led by the President, Aristotle C Rymbai has been fighting for the rights of these teachers who have been deprived of their salaries for years, with salaries being released on-and- off for a few months, again returning back to the same.
These teachers have been demanding release of their salaries and lamented that their cries are not being heard. It would not be wrong to say that their demands are justifiable as they have mouths to feed, school-going children who need fees to be paid, and elderly parents dependent on them.
The non-payment of salary on time, and its once-in-a-while release do not suffice to fend off the many expenses they have to bear. Surprisingly, as always, the Education minister, Lahkmen Rymbui, does not have much to say but to come up with reasons such as, the inability of the concerned department to pay the salaries being the Centre not releasing the sanctioned fund of Rs 145 crore that is required to clear off the five months’ salaries of the SSA teachers.
Even though, he has stated that the government will be making efforts to resolve the issue, it does not sound so promising particularly coming from someone like him who has always proved to not be able to handle any department with care — be it the Home department with its dearth of police personnel that is leading to rise in crime in the state, to the state of education that has been suffering for years, earning Meghalaya the tag of ‘worst performing’ state in the field of education according to the Performance Grading Index 2021. His failure as a Minister in all aspects needs to be evaluated in terms of what growth and change, he has been able to bring about to the departments he has been handling which to say the least, is invisible. Whether or not he really is concerned of the plight of the SSA teachers is a question for another day.