Thursday, 4 September 2014

Towards A More Democratic Teachers’ Day

Like every year, 5th September 2014 will also be celebrated as Teachers’ Day in our schools. This day is celebrated not in memory of any teacher who had fought for social equality or any movement for equality of rights or in remembrance of any revolutionary turn in history. Rather it was chosen to celebrate the birth date of a person who has made no remarkable contribution to the universalisation of education. Instead dates associated with struggles of teachers like Jyotiba Phule, Pandita Ramabai, Savitribai Phule, Gijubhai Badheka, who have made exceptional contribution in education, look more appropriate for Teachers’ Day. In a system rooted in inequality, the role of education and teachers is to prepare the way for a more egalitarian and just society. This can happen when knowledge of history is embedded in an understanding of struggles. Programs based on administrative commands and formal traditions can only obtuse the intellect of teachers.
This year’s Teachers’ Day celebration shall further crystallize such formal traditions. As per the government directive, all schools are required to show Teachers’ Day address of the Prime Minister to their students between 3:00-4:45 pm. To enforce implementation of this directive officials are required to ensure that the ‘directions are being complied in letter and spirit’. It is further communicated to schools through a circular that ‘any laxity in the arrangements shall be viewed seriously’. It’s an exercise to hurt the self-respect of teachers and ‘show’ them their position in educational hierarchy.  It might be happening for the first time on Teachers’ Day that teachers have been given a present of threats wrapped in an administrative fashion. This year’s design of a centralized program takes away from schools and students freedom to celebrate or not celebrate this day in their own ways. Even if it’s seen positively by some as an interaction between the Prime Minister and students, is it not an example of dictatorial intervention in the functioning of autonomous institutions like schools?
Another piece of irony is that thousands of teaching posts are lying vacant in schools of Delhi government. In the absence of teachers some subjects were either not taught to students or teachers of other subjects were made to undertake this task. The guest teachers who were finally appointed in the last week of August were asked to complete syllabus in a short period of 20-25 days so that students can anyhow sit for first term examinations. The slogan of ‘quality education’ remains nothing but a hollow phrase in such a system. De-regularization of teachers is not a technical or financial issue but a result of neoliberal policies whereby labour power in each sector is being increasingly used at low wages on a contractual and informal basis. What kind of social values can grow in a system where teachers are ill-paid, fragmented and insecure about their jobs all the time? It would be a challenge in such a situation for teachers to inculcate an understanding and strength to build a democratic and egalitarian society among students.
Friends, we appeal to you to protest against this atmosphere of tyranny and systemic inequality and join the struggle for democratic, equitable and universal education.

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