12,541 SSA teachers threaten to quit en masse over HM’s diktat
Rymbui’s ‘no work, no pay’ order evokes strong reaction from protesting teachers
SHILLONG, July 20: Asserting that it was a do or die situation for them, the protesting SSA teachers on Wednesday threatened to resign en masse if Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui fails to recall his order warning teachers to resume work or face pay cuts.
Taking a tough stand against the protesting teachers, Rymbui had warned that the government would be forced to issue an order of “no work, no pay” if they do not return to their schools.
Hours after Rymbui’s statement, the SSA teachers held a meeting and asked the minister to take back his statement by Thursday.
President of Meghalaya Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan Schools Association Aristotle Rymbai said the minister had threatened that the government will withdraw the SSA scheme if the school managing committees do not take action against the protesting teachers.
“If he fails to take back his statement by tomorrow, it will be the state government which would compel 12,541 SSA teachers to go for mass resignation,” Rymbai said, warning that such an action would lead to the collapse of the elementary education system in Meghalaya.
He made it crystal clear that the teachers would not call off their agitation even if the government uses force since it was a “do or die” situation for them.
Earlier in the day, Rymbui had asked the teachers to call of their agitation and resume work. “We will have no option other than to issue the order of no work, no pay if they refuse to go back to their classes. We will also withdraw the grant-in-aid of the managing committees of those schools which are closed despite repeated requests by the government,” he told reporters.
“But we will not shy away from our responsibilities to find out ways and means for timely release of the salaries of the teachers,” the minister said.
He said the state government is waiting for the first installment from the Centre to be able to release the salaries. He said he cannot say how much funds the Centre will release.
“We have impressed upon the Centre to release the funds at the earliest. As soon as we receive the money, we will release it to the respective managing committees for payment of salaries of the SSA teachers,” Rymbui said.
The reply from the Centre is that the release of the funds is still under process, he said. He also said that the state government will not be able to do anything unless it receives the central share.
The minister appealed to the teachers to work together with the state government by calling off the agitation. He said the government understands their hardships.
He said his priority at the moment is to ensure the timely release of salaries of the teachers. He said he cannot speak on their other demands.
“SSA is a very complicated subject. It is very difficult for the government to do anything since expenditure is huge. Nothing can be done at this moment. We need to understand the limitation of the scheme and limitation of the government and work together,” Rymbui said.
He made it clear the state government does not have the capacity to absorb all SSA teachers by regularising their services. “We are trying to reduce the category of teachers. But this exercise will take time since the financial implications is huge,” Rymbui added.
Meanwhile, the SSA teachers appealed to the government to accede to the demands and not deprive them of their rights, even as they spent a third night on the street.
The parking lot near the Additional Secretariat has become a temporary home for many of them. A number of them are women who left their homes in the villages and are camping in Shillong.
Middle Pakyntein, a young teacher from Jaintia Hills, told The Shillong Times that she was facing a lot of difficulties in running her family with her monthly salary of Rs 19,000. She came to Shillong leaving her aged father and two children back home.
Sweety Kyndiah is another teacher from Jaintia Hills taking part in the protest. She accused the government of depriving the teachers of their right to livelihood.
She told ST she will camp on the streets of Shillong for months together but will not return home empty handed.
Hundreds of the teachers were seen sleeping at the venue. Some took out warm clothes and caps to beat the chill at night. Others used umbrellas to protect themselves from dew.
Matias D Shira, who came from Garo Hills, said the teachers are committed to continue with the protest despite facing many challenges.
“We somehow use a public toilet nearby in the morning,” he said, adding some NGOs bring food for them sometimes.
Rymbai said the government has informed the teachers’ body it has already submitted all documentations to the Centre for the release of funds but the Ministry of Finance is not releasing the same.
“If that is the case, then I invite Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma and Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui to join us here. We will jointly protest against the Union government,” he said.