Heavy workload takes a toll on ‘underpaid’ teachers; refuse promotions

Representational Image | Photo: iStock

Kottayam: The recent suicide by the headmistress of Govt LP School, Polassery in Vaikom, unable to cope with the stress of heavy workload, is considered a one-off incident by many. However, there are numerous teachers among us who struggle to endure the work pressure.

A lion’s share of them refuses promotions, wary of the heightened mental pressure and financial responsibility that comes along with the recognition. Though the Education department is aware of the plight of these teachers, no action is being taken to address the issue. The question remains, how much workload should they handle in addition to teaching?

Mid-day meal, a major thought for worry
Headmasters, who shoulder the responsibility of the mid-day meal scheme in government, aided schools often end up spending out of their own pockets to continue providing food to students without a break. On most occasions, they get refunded only after three months. The government provides only Rs 8 for one child. If there is an average of 20 working days a month, a single student will get Rs 160 a month.

With the fund, the headmasters have to provide a meal with two curries, milk on two days, and eggs once a week to each of the beneficiaries. They also have to provide for the expense of at least two gas cylinders a month. The situation is such that headmasters are left with managing more expenses than what they are allocated. Not to mention the delay in refunding. This leaves them reeling under a financial crisis.

If a school has over 300 students, the mid-day meal expense alone will add up to a minimum of Rs 15,000 a month. Many have fears that, with the government planning a free breakfast scheme too, they will be forced to spend the whole of their salary to run the scheme.

Numerous programmes, but not enough funds
Often the school authorities will get funds for various programmes like Children’s Day, anti-drug campaigns, art festivals, etc., months after the conduct of the events. They have to bear the expenses for urgent construction activities. Besides, if a school has vehicles, the headmaster needs to provide for their maintenance, fuel, and drivers’ salaries.

Promotions but no salary hike
The teachers getting promotions as headmasters often find themselves burdened with heavy overload, but their salaries more or less remain the same. The headmasters were given the same pay as that of the primary teachers in the last few years. It is out of this amount that they have to meet the additional expenses.

A single post but many responsibilities
A headmaster of a government-aided LP School is tasked with an array of duties, starting from teaching, buying commodities for the mid-day scheme to preparing reports, and even cleaning the school premises. Besides the Class responsibility, the LP and UP headmasters have been entrusted with the maintenance of 56 registers including that related to class monitoring of other teachers, admission, and TC.

Meeting the minimum student count and performance of the school in LSS, USS scholarship exams, art festivals, sports meets, etc. too are the concern of headmasters. They are forced to carry out all the additional responsibilities until the clerical and attender-level posts are allotted at the LP School level.

Since no new postings are being sanctioned, the headmasters are left with no choice but to handle multiple subjects at the same time. The situation of BUDS school teachers is more pathetic. The government has allocated no separate funds to panchayats for running of the BUDS schools.

The headmasters have to carry out activities like physiotherapy and counselling all by themselves. If a BUDS school teacher was drawing a salary of Rs 34, 000 before Covid, the same has been slashed by half now.

Loss of positions
Many a time, the posts of special teachers and sports teachers are removed, citing that the school has a lesser number of students than that stipulated. The incumbent teachers are then transferred out. If other schools don’t have vacancies, the teachers may lose their jobs. Currently, even those sports teachers who have PhDs are working at high school and higher secondary levels at UP-scale salary.

The ‘reporting’ headache
The teachers have to simultaneously prepare many reports, including that concerning ‘Samagra Shiksha Kerala’ programmes, school events, submitting applications for fund allocation, revision of syllabus and textbook contents, etc. Besides mailing all these reports, they have to provide the print too to various offices. Though they don’t have any objection to time-specific reporting, the reports that the AEOs (Assistant Educational Officers) demand at the last minute are causing immense mental pressure.

“Measures should be taken to allocate the amount for the mid-day scheme in advance. For years, the fund for the scheme is determined at Rs 8 per student. This should be hiked,” – V D Abraham, KPSTA Idukki District President.

“The Education department has adopted an indifferent approach towards teachers. Currently, the department is not permitting those failing to carry out responsibilities to excuse themselves from the same, despite the provisions for the same,” – Varghese Antony, KPSTA Kottayam District President.

“I’m a member of a Left-affiliated Teachers organization. What the government is doing now to the Education sector is undemocratic and amounts to a rights violation. Even the Left outfits are keeping mum out of fear,” – a teacher from the Kottayam district who requested anonymity.

“It’s the women who are affected the most due to their handling of the household tasks along with the excess workload at schools. Many are suffering from health issues. High blood pressure and strokes are increasing among the teachers,’ – a sports teacher from Kottayam district on the condition of anonymity.  

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