In a world of make-believe

P1030449

Just a day after Teachers’ Day, I saw this news piece “30 Teachers honored with state awards” on Arunachal Times (Sept. 6, 2014), where it was also mentioned about SSA (contractual) Teachers’ salary. Allow me to quote the sentence from the newspaper, “Our state is paying the highest salary to SSA teachers in the country”. It could be true, so I don’t question or challenge this statement. However, did they bear the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in mind when they make such statements? Did they reckon the inflated prices of commodities and how they command money in exchange for itself in Arunachal? Do they make any attempt to forestall it? Do they know that shopkeepers in some places of Arunachal refuse to accept 25 and 50 paisa as a medium of exchange? It’s weird, but true. Do they know that regular teachers make twice our current salary even though the workloads are same? What about them (MLAs in Arunachal)? Their salary is highest in the country – their basic pay is Rs. 30,000. And this does not include perks like daily allowance, constituency allowance, office expenses and conveyance allowance. And what makes the Engineers and Doctors of Arunachal qualify for big salary? Ever since I could remember, the condition of Karsingsa road in Itanagar has not improved at all. And all see in Arunachal is ugly cumbersome concrete buildings and bridges. Where’s the provision for pedestrians on roadways? Where are the zebra crossings in Arunachal road? I guess that’s why the engineers deserve big salary. As for the Doctors, they would still run their private clinics despite getting non-practicing allowance (NPA). However, the financial incentive has not kept the doctors away from private medical practice.

By the way, let’s see how much does a SSA teacher get paid in a month. The figure of SSA junior teacher salary is Rs. 26,453 in Arunachal. Consolidated salary. Do they get it at regular interval? No. They have to wait at least two months to get paid, and the number of days can go up to 6 months. How do they maintain their families in-between? They borrow money at high interest rate (range from 3% -10% in a month, which means 30% – 100% in a year) from local moneylenders. Why aren’t they taking any advantage of personal loans provided by nationalized banks? The interest rate is much lower. Well, only if they are eligible for such. They are not eligible to draw personal loan because their salaries are not methodical and systematic.

Highest salary, it may be. After considering everything we went through in a year, the statement appears to be sheer mocking. They may think that they are doing us a favor by giving us an employment opportunity. But the fact remains – exploitation. For your kind information, not long ago I declined a job offer from abroad so as to give  something back to my native state. And I would like to see my state prospers and moves in a right direction. We are happy to be a part of intellectual development, but ostentation is something I can’t really absorb.

I don’t know whether Labor Statistic in India ever conducted Cost of Living Index in Arunachal. Sometimes ago I saw a report where Assam was shown as highest cost of living index value in India. I wonder where Arunachal will be in that list. You know, whenever there’s a rupee increment in petrol or diesel prices, the public transport operators in Arunachal also increased their fare by Rs. 50. Rs. 50 from each passenger. And they always forget to lower the fare when the fuel prices are revoked. With our highest salary; will we be able to afford to lead a dignified life, let alone our own house.

Love your job as you love yourself

IMG_3011

I was asked once, “Don’t the teachers find their profession exceedingly boring after teaching the same subjects every year?” To be really very honest, sometimes it can be, especially when the teachers and students fail to make a connection with each other. Or else, there’s no question of boredom as we get a whole new challenging batch of students every year that demand a lot of our attentions. So there isn’t much time to think or fret about the subject.

In my life as teacher, I know I have bored my students many times. And so were they. But I think, in the end, it all depends on the mood of students and teachers, healthy state of minds and the extent of enthusiasm in a classroom which determine the austerity of teaching profession – not the subject. For instance; it can be really frustrating when we ask them some general questions, that we had already covered on previous day, to warm up their minds, and they just stay mute. Then you try another one. Again you confront the same blank stare. And then when you ask them if we go through the lesson all over again. They say “No”. At that point, it’s very difficult to come to a decision whether you should go ahead or backward with the topic under discussion. In due course, you began to doubt your own ability. You question yourself if you are delivering enough. Personally I always felt that equal participation or non-participation of both students and teachers defines the boredom. Let me share with one of my trick to keep the students involved in my classroom. I always start my class with a joke or two with some funny acting thrown in between. If they all laughed, you can be a little bit sure that they’ll listen to you. It works out most of the time for me. Secondly, I constantly try to remember all my students’ names, even my ex students’ names. Maybe I could do this because I easily get emotionally attached to my students. Some earliest students had finished college, and they get shock when I call them by their names. Too much emotional attachment can be really draining, but I am helpless. I repeat I am very emotional person.

However, there are trying times that we’re facing as a contractual teacher; we succeed to get through many of them. I guess there will be in future also. No, it’s nothing to do with my students, but governments and bureaucratic apathy. Delay in disbursement of monthly salary – the action regularly followed by government and bureaucrat. It won’t be wrong if we say three months salary instead of monthly salary.  Last year, after three months of default we highly hoped that our salary would be transferred to our bank account at the end of fourth month. Fifth month came and gone, there was no sign. Finally after six months, it was paid out. How many public demonstrations and strikes can we conduct in a year besides written requests and complaints for early release of salary? Under such circumstance, pedagogy definitely takes an ugly turn as non-payment dare our survival – the continuity of our physical existence. How are they supposed to find fault in teachers if they were coerced to seek an alternate source of livelihood? Some of our contemporary colleagues have quitted teaching profession in frustration, and they were quite good. It’s a big loss for country. That’s why, big words like “Largest democracy in the world”, “GDP growth rate”, “Rising superpower” are no jingles to our ears.

You must be wondering why I kept this job if there is so much suffering in it. One, my love for learning-teaching profession helps me to carry on. When we stand in the class, we are the most influential force in the lives of our students. If I can help guiding them in a right direction, earning their overwhelming respect in doing so. What more can you ask for?  Two, if all of us keep on quitting, who will do the onus of nation builder. Three, I don’t fancy flashy cars. My venerated aged motorbike is enough to drop me at my school. And just two plain meals a day for my small stomach. Four, I love rewarding and challenging employment. Moreover, it keeps me occupied.

Yesterday our school students celebrated Teachers’ Day to honor us. In India, birth date of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first vice- president of India, is celebrated as Teachers’ Day. It was fun filled Day. And it doesn’t make much difference to me whether the teaching community are included or ignored in PM Teachers’ Day speech as long as I have my students’ love and respect. Need I say more…?