Six ad-hoc Sikkim teachers reached the seventh day of their hunger strike in Gangtok on September 8, 2021 while demanding either an extension of their service contracts or fresh interviews within this month without any delay.
According to The Telegraph, three of the teachers reported deteriorating health due to the continuing fast. However, they asserted they would continue the demonstration under the banner of New Ad hoc Teachers Association of Sikkim (NATAS) until their demands are met.
However, the Sikkim education department authorities, on Monday, refused the demands and asked the protesters to prepare for the re-interviews instead.
Speaking to EastMojo, Education Secretary G. P. Upadhaya said that the delay in interviews was due to on-going “interviews for head masters and assistant education officers”. He said that these interviews will be completed by September 30, when the ad-hoc teachers will be given priority treatment. Still, protesters have resolved to dig in their heels until their demands are met.
NATAS talks about delayed promises and interviews
In June, 860 teachers were terminated from service merely eight months after being recruited by the state education department. In response, the NATAS circulated a press release in mid-August that said, “We [Ad-hoc teachers] were initially told that the entire process would be completed by mid-July, and then by August 1. Now they are saying from October 3 onwards. This onward thing can go on and on.”
Members said that ad-hoc teachers have been going through the interview process since 2020 when over 800 teachers from various districts received orders after day-long interviews. Their six month work tenure was extended by another three months until June 2021.
On completing this period, teachers were asked to sit for re-interviews for the same post. This was in accordance with the state government’s “eight years regularisation” scheme that sought to bring all ad-hoc teachers under one umbrella. It allowed candidates to appear for one-time interviews following which, their contract will be extended on the basis of their performance report. After eight years, they will be regularised without facing another interview, provided they fulfill the NCTE criteria. The same rule will be applicable for ad-hoc teachers whose contract is to expire in 2022.
However, the delay in the re-interview has begun demoralising ad-hoc teachers, creating a discord with their parental department, the education department. It also affects students, who continue to struggle with online classes and shortage of teachers.
“We also make an appeal to all the school heads to remain concerned regarding this and brief the education department about the shortage of teachers in their respective schools and demand to meet up with the numbers of teachers needed as soon as possible,” said the NATAS.
Meanwhile, the Education Ministry stated on September 6 that it was stated that the ad-hoc teachers did not realise the benefits of the systemic change that the department is attempting.
“Big systemic changes take time and effort. This is a golden opportunity being created for ad-hoc teachers… It takes time and faces logistical issues. Ad-hoc teachers should participate in the district wise scrutiny to save time,” it said in a press release.
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