By HH Mohrmen
The celebration of teachers’ day this year has become a mere formality. Like many government functions this celebration too has become a typical run of the mill show organized simply because the show must go on. In continuation of the teacher’s ongoing protest against the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards their plight, the teachers simultaneously organized a rally in Shillong which made the government-run celebration a lackluster show.
Perhaps this is the first time that something like this happened in the state when majority of the teachers did not attend the teachers’ day celebration. The MUA government under the leadership of Dr Mukul Sangma should be ashamed that such a thing has happened during its tenure. This aberration will be recorded in the annals of the brief history of this state whence the majority of the teachers boycotted the celebration of the teachers’ day organized by the government. The teachers not only boycotted the government run Teachers’ Day celebration but they have organized a rally parallel to the government function which drew a much larger crowd of teachers than the government function. Such an incident has not happened even during the late seventies and the early eighties when the district council lower primary school teachers (then under their respective autonomous district councils) organized agitation programs to demand that the state government take over the administration of the LP school from the district councils. It was then one of the largest peoples’ protest, but it never occurred to the teachers to boycott the official teachers’ day celebration
Teachers’ day celebration this year was like a wedding that never happened. It’s a wedding where the bride’s family has made all arrangements but the groom never turned up. The reason that the groom decided to abandon his own wedding plan is because one side of the party did not keep the promise and there were misunderstandings among the two which jeopardized everything. The incident has also raised few questions with regards to the celebration. The first question is, whether the teachers day celebration if for the teaching community in the state or is it organized to suit the convenience of the minister in charge of Education.
The question has a bearing to the celebration in Jowai. It has been a convention followed by the department since celebration was first organized in the district headquarters that Teachers’ day celebration is being observed in the first hour of the working day that is in the forenoon. But this time the timing of the celebration was pushed to the afternoon. When asked why the Department changed the timing of the celebration, the answer was that the minister is not free to attend the function if it is organized in the morning. Why should everything be tailored around the Minister’s convenience? So another reason why very few teachers turned up for the celebration is because the timing is inconvenient for most of them, especially those coming from far flung areas. The teachers had to run a parallel show on this very important day because they are fed up with the government’s dilly-dally approach with regards to their grievances. This column has brought to light the myriad problems in the way the government treats this ‘noble’ profession. It is the only profession that even if people work for equal number of hours, yet they are not paid at par by the government. Even for LP school teachers who are paid by the government there are some who are given medical and other benefits but non-government teachers are denied all the benefits. Teachers under SSA scheme in spite of working for the same number of hours and paid by the government, draw a different salary from teachers in the government run schools and schools which are under deficit patterns. These are some of the discrepancies in the way the school teachers are paid by the government. How can we expect teachers to put up with these discrepancies and not fight for justice when there is no equality in the way they paid for their work?
The Teachers’ day celebration, 2013 will therefore be remembered for rallies and protests than the government celebration. It is a sad day for education when the teachers have to hit the streets to protest their grievances instead of being appreciated and honoured in recognition of their yeoman service to the state. And the minister of education has no one else to blame but himself for all the problems which led to this unpleasant end.
Fingers were pointed and he was called names, but the people of Jowai have already made their decision and Dr. R.C. Laloo was elected MLA of the prestigious constituency and made Deputy Chief Minister in charge of education. I would refrain from repeating myself but would instead point out at some of the facts and figures of his election. Two thirds of the voters did not vote for Laloo. Which means that majority of voters in Jowai did not vote for him. He knows very well that majority of the people of Jowai are not in favour of him being the MLA. Dr. Laloo did not get even half of the numbers of voter turn-out in the last election and political pundits in the district know that Dr Laloo would not even have contested if it was a straight fight. All that the teachers would have to do now is protest and hope that Dr Sangma reshuffles his cabinet sooner than later so that at least dialogue and negotiations can start between them the government. The MUA II government has already bitten more than it can chew, so it is wise if the government would try solving this smaller problem to give itself enough time to address and tackle the larger ILP issue.