Moral policing, PTA style: Kerala teacher delivers baby 6 months after wedding, loses job

Moral policing, PTA style: Kerala teacher delivers baby 6 months after wedding, loses job
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Malappuram: Moral policing seems to have taken a new dimension in Kerala's Malappuram district with a pre-primary teacher allegedly losing her job for delivering a baby within 'six months after her wedding'.

According to a police complaint filed by Aswathy (name changed), the school authorities stopped her from rejoining the school after she came back from the maternity leave.

Kottakkal police last week registered a case against the headmaster and PTA president of Government Mappila Upper Primary school after the teacher filed a complaint before the Malappuram district police chief. In her complaint, she alleged that the school authorities and the PTA insulted her and questioned the legitimacy of her pregnancy. The teacher also alleged that apart from character assassination, the PTA circulated voice clips through social media to defame her.

The deputy director of education had directed the school to take her back on humanitarian ground. However, this was ignored by the parent-teacher association (PTA) of the school, says Aswathy. According to her, the reason cited by the PTA for not taking her back is that she gave birth to a baby just six months after her marriage and this would set bad moral values among children.

Aswathy from Kottakkal had joined the pre-primary section of the school in 2014 for a daily wage of Rs 150 and in 2016, she was appointed on a yearly contract with a monthly salary of Rs 2,500. In 2018, the remuneration was hiked to Rs 5,000 per month. She was not entitled to any leaves. 

There are two other employees directly recruited by the government in the school's pre-primary section – one teacher and one Aaya. Since it was difficult to manage 100 students with two teachers in the LKG and UKG sections, PTA was allowed to hire one more teacher and Aswathy was appointed by the PTA. 

She worked there till October 4, 2018. A day later, she delivered a baby.

She had applied for maternity leave till January 10, 2019, and when she came back on January 11, the school authorities told her that the PTA had expressed its displeasure over her rejoining. She revealed that though her maternity leave application was accepted, she was not paid for the three months she was absent from the school.

Aswathy told Onmanorama that she had been regularly in touch with the headmaster, who told her that the PTA 'was not happy with her rejoining'. He also pointed out that she had applied for maternity leave just a day before she delivered the baby.

However, Aswathy has a different story to tell. “I had handed over the maternity leave application to the teacher in charge as the headmaster was on leave. It was accepted and leave was granted till January 10, 2019. However, they refused to let me rejoin when I reached the school on January 11. After that, I filed a complaint with the Women's Commission, Human Rights Commission and State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. On the direction of the child rights panel, the DDE recorded the statements of the headmaster, PTA president, AEO and me,” she said.

Tale of a teacher

Aswathy was separated from her first husband in 2008 two years after the wedding. She has a daughter in that marriage and she returned home to stay with her mother. Her father had died when she was a child and the mother had raised her.

When her mother also died of cancer in 2016, parents of a student in the school brought a new alliance for her in January 2018.

“Our engagement was held in January with the support of neighbours. My daughter and I were staying with an elderly Muslim woman after my mother's death. After the engagement, all the neighbours suggested that I stay with my would-be husband in our house even though the wedding was not solemnised and we started living together in January itself. The wedding was delayed because I filed for divorce from my first husband only after the engagement. We were legally divorced in March and the second marriage was held in April 2018. Now the PTA panel says that I delivered a baby soon after the marriage and it was 'immoral' for a teacher,” she told Onmanorama.

PTA president Sulfikar Ali told Onmanorama that it was not only on the ground of her second marriage and childbirth that Aswathy was removed but there were complaints from parents about her.

“The DDE had told us that she might be given the job on humanitarian ground. She was appointed on humanitarian ground in 2014 as a temporary employee. She is not entitled to maternity leave as a temporary employee and there were complaints from parents that she was bashing up children. Some parents also raised the issue of the childbirth only six months after her wedding. After taking into consideration all this, it was decided that she need not be given another chance. When she took the matter with the women's commission, we asked her to attend an interview for hiring a fresh hand. She declined and said she should be reinstated without an interview,” said the PTA president.

Aswathy also alleged that she was being shunned on social media and the PTA office-bearers were indulging in character assassination.

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