Sikkim and its Ad hoc Teachers: Questions on Their Future
On June 28, 2021 ad hoc school teachers, spearheaded by the All Sikkim Adhoc and Temporary Employees Association, gathered in front of the Tashiling Secretariat at Gangtok as an act of protest against the notification from the Department of Education that instructed all ad hoc teachers to attend an interview to continue in their service.
According to the notification of the Department of Education, “all appointments of ad hoc teachers in the education department would only be made subject to participation in a walk-in interview with the appointing authority, and in fulfillment of the criteria as prescribed for in the NCTE Acts, its rules and regulations.” Further, this notification was passed to improve transparency in the appointment of ad hoc employees.
In October 2020, 860 school teachers were appointed on ad hoc basis to meet the requirements of the schools in Sikkim. With their contract expiring on June 30, 2021, a notification regarding the walk-in interview was issued by the Department of Education which advertised for the post of ad hoc teachers for schools across Sikkim. The protesting teachers questioned the government’s decision to conduct interviews for teachers who had already been teaching for the past six months; they wanted an extension of their services instead. This, after all, had been the general practice where the contracts would be extended, they held.
The general practice, hitherto, was that the contract of ad hoc teachers would be extended yearly. And on the completion of eight years of regular service, they would be considered for ‘regularization’.
The year 2019 witnessed a month-long protest organized by the ad hoc teachers in Sikkim that resulted in the blocking of NH-10 for about three hours. Following this, the then government had made promises to ‘regularize’ ad hoc teachers if they met the necessary qualifications of five years of uninterrupted service and NCTE norms. The State government also assured that it would extend the services of ad hoc teachers who failed to meet the necessary qualifications and allow them a period of two years to do the same. Many teachers also demanded that ad hoc teachers be given more preference when the ‘regularization’ process came through.
In February 2020, a year after the highway blockade, there was a demand placed in front of the government of Sikkim to stop the process of ad hoc recruitment of teachers. There are many grey areas and an element of cruelty in the very nature of ad hoc employment. The very practice of ad hoc or temporary employment has many issues and hinders the development of education.
The protest against ad hoc appointments has been on for years and according to a report filed on February 7, 2021, in the Times of India, Delhi University and its affiliated colleges were functioning with over 6000 ad hoc teachers. The Ministry of Education provided data on ad hoc appointments when Member of Parliament from the Rajya Sabha raised a query on the non-appointment of permanent teachers in Delhi University. According to the data provided, Delhi University reported 3530 vacant posts in its affiliated colleges.
Teaching is considered a noble profession across the globe. And the very idea of ad hoc or ‘guest’ faculty describes this job’s unstable and fragile nature. In a way, teachers are exploited when they are appointed on ad hoc basis as they do the same amount of work for lesser wages in accordance to their contracts. In the judgment of the case State of Punjab and Ors. V. Jagjit Singh and Ors. The ruling stated that two people doing the same amount of work cannot be treated differently merely on nomenclature. According to this ruling, the Constitution of India guaranteed the right to equal pay for equal work. But the very idea of a teacher on contract challenges this very ruling as the employee adheres to the contract that mentions lesser pay and an uncertain state of employment.
On April 10, 2006, in the case of Secretary, State of Karnataka and Ors. V. Umadevi and Ors., the Supreme Court directed that regularization cannot be a mode of recruitment. According to the judgment, temporary appointment denies opportunities to qualified aspirants. If ad hoc teachers were given preference when regular positions showed up, it would deny other eligible candidates an equal opportunity. The judgment also mentioned that ad hoc appointments can only be in contingency and that temporary employees cannot claim to be made permanent on the expiry of their term of appointment.
If ad hoc appointments can only be in contingency, for instance when an emergency need arises in the case of demise, or a teacher going on maternity leave, the practice of running educational institutions just with the appointment of ad hoc teachers is in many ways an act of exploitation. Ad hoc teachers are mostly paid per teaching hours, and this number of teaching hours is capped. By doing so, an institution is denying regular employment for eligible candidates and saving money by exploiting teachers on a contract basis. And when it comes to regular appointments, many institutions and States do not count the ad hoc teaching experience as it is not continuous. So, teachers who have been working on ad hoc basis for years continue to be exploited, when teachers who are otherwise eligible for permanent employment, are denied opportunities.
Rikzing Norbu, an executive member of the New Ad hoc Teachers Association of Sikkim, said, “Many young teachers are facing a lot of issues as they are having to attend interviews for the same post over and over again. We have recently submitted our memorandum to the Honorable Chief Minister of Sikkim regarding the regularization scheme of ad-hoc teachers based on 8 years of government policy. The 8-year scheme in a way makes young teachers feel left out. There is an absence of provisions for teachers who have served less than 5 or 8 years. The memorandum also states that the current scheme violates the true nature of Article 16 of the Indian Constitution and deprives the majority of teachers of having the equal opportunity at seeking employment.”
“During the meeting, Hon’ble CM sir has assured us that these concerns will be addressed and that no one from the teaching community will be left out. The meeting ended in a positive note and an assuring hope for young teachers as the Hon’ble CM assured that the grievances and demands and demands will be considered as per the concern regarding the submission of the memorandum.” He added.
Prakash Parajuli, one of the teachers who was arrested during the 2019 protest, said, “The very idea of ad hoc appointments must be challenged as it has a great psychological effect on the teachers. It only further adds to the economic disparity among the teachers. Many teachers continue to work on ad hoc basis for years with great uncertainty of their futures. The State should consider regularization of appointment of teachers so that the overall education scenario of the State develops.”
With the State running its schools with a large number of ad hoc teachers, the need to reflect on the very idea of temporary appointments needs to be questioned. School education plays an important role in shaping the future of the people of any State. And teachers being one of the major stakeholders in educating future generations, deserve a great amount of appreciation and recognition in the field of governance.
By Vaidyanath Nishant. The author is a freelance writer. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org