- Where does the judiciary place the question of teachers’ financial security and livelihood?
In history, whenever there has been a conflict, the focus has always remained on the two major parties involved in a fight. However, if one looks closely at all such possible situations, there is always a third party that is suffering the most, but somehow is neglected not only by the people, but also by history.
In the recent battle between the court and private schools, there is another party that is getting affected the most and their narrative is not part of the mainstream media: the teachers.
Since summers 2018 and before, there is a constant tussle between the Supreme Court and different private schools. The Supreme Court demands that the schools should not only lower the fees, but also return the vacation fees that are taken from the parents. On the other hand, the schools are reluctant, because as a private entity, their aim is, after all, to maximise profit like any other industry or company. But like any other company or industry, these private schools generate jobs as well, which include school administration, staff support and the faculty.
One can never doubt that how important education has become in the modern world and one can for certain argue that it is one of the basic rights of all human beings. One can only admire and commend the steps Supreme Court is taking for our society and future generations. However, there is one aspect that is being neglected in the battlefield of justice versus exploiters: safeguarding the people working in these schools.
Not only in courts, but school teachers have also been neglected by the society. They are called master sahib out of respect but the same word would also be used to marginalise them further. The word master sahib/sahiba espouses a certain stereotype; master sahib/sahiba is the one who has no chance in excelling in other fields that are much more in line with their qualifications which has led them to accept their fates as a master sahib/sahiba. Despite downgrading them to such an extent, all the ills of the students and society are blamed on them.
Because of all these generalised statements and stereotypes, it is ignored that most of these master sahibs/sahibas are very qualified individuals that are responsible for shaping the future of the society. It is also ignored that most of the time, master sahibs/sahibas choose to become the part of the education system and are keen to uplift the standard of the society by uplifting the standard of education. They work sixty hours a week but for this, there reward is not only the stereotype as mentioned above, but wages that from a far cannot parallel their qualifications and the amount of work they put in. It is not only difficult, but almost impossible for a teacher to make their ends meet decently, as any other professional with the same qualification will be doing. Because of this, they are forced to over work by joining different academies, as well as giving tuitions, so at least these teachers can afford the education of their own children.
One should also keep in mind that most of the teachers get their pay raise at the end of the year and again the question of whether they will get the pay raise or not, and how much is also a point of worry
Recently, the Punjab government directed the police to salute teachers as a sign of respect. This is a good thing, but is that all? Is the respect the only thing that can fill these teachers and their families’ belly?
On the one hand, the teachers are being given salutes, perhaps praise, but on the other hand, they are threatened indirectly. These private schools are currently employing thousands of teachers. In the schools, the uncertainty is not only rising but is also impacting the very quality of education. Even if it might be claimed that the school chains are downsizing, the very fear of it is putting almost an unbearable burden on the teachers. Besides that, one should also keep in mind that most of the teachers get their pay raise at the end of the year and again the question of whether they will get the pay raise or not, and how much is also a point of worry for these working-class educators.
In the debate about the question of future, one always hears the cliché that our next generation has the power to wield the Excalibur that will bring about the change. Yet, with all this, we forget about the Merlin who forged Excalibur in the first place.
Perhaps, for certain, it would be impossible to criticise what the Supreme Court is doing for the future of this country and it seems only logical and ethical that education should be taken out of the box of privilege and presented to the masses in the plate of basic rights. But, perhaps, the teachers can only ask where the judiciary places the question of their financial security and livelihood?