|With my students in the Himalayas (2012)|
A friend of mine who has opened a new school in Himachal Pradesh asked me to help him get a couple of teachers from Kerala. I rang up more than half a dozen people (friends and relatives most of whom are teachers) all of whom seemed to mock me for some culpable ignorance. The last person whom I called the other day is a politician. I started by mentioning the salary of Rs25000 to Rs30000 thinking that the amount would be quite attractive to a fresh graduate. “Even if you offer Rs50000,” said my politician-cousin, “you won’t get anyone worth his salt.”
“Why?” I persisted.
“Teaching is not even a career option for today’s generation,” he said.
Teaching as a profession is facing the threat of extinction, I mused. I had a reason to grin sarcastically. A few minutes before I called my cousin I had signed a circular sent by my boss. The circular was to inform the teachers of my school that the hostel supervisors would be keeping a daily record of the hostel duties performed by the teaching staff right from morning 5.30 (waking up students) to the bedtime of the students (10.30 pm).
It must be mentioned here that mine is an exclusively residential school and the teaching staff are expected to help in the management of the hostels. Earlier the help meant counselling the students as and when required and helping them with their studies or participation in certain competitions. For the regular hostel duties there is a full time hostel supervisor in each hostel. Moreover, teachers cannot spend so much time in the hostel; they are all people with their own families to look after (and not monks and nuns who have renounced the world) and they also have to prepare the lessons of the next day as well as check notebooks and test papers. Nowadays they also have to fill in pages and pages of details about each student in the name of CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation which may require a teacher to know such details as how many times a student passes urine a day). Yet why does my school think that teachers must be given more duties? That’s a mystery I’m still trying to unravel.
What amuses me particularly in this episode is this: the qualification demanded of a teacher is post-graduation with B.Ed. while Senior Secondary education is enough to become a hostel supervisor. Such a supervisor will sit and make a record of the duties performed by a teacher who has a minimum of six years more of education! Many teachers of my school have post-graduation in more than one subject and quite a few have doctorate too. The PhD-wallah’s fate is written by one who has scraped through class 12.
Why would anyone wish to become a teacher in such a world?
But what really amuses me is: why are teachers being condemned to such ignominy? Is it the revenge of a collective unconscious on a class that dominated the social systems in the days of the gurukulas?