In the wake of the recent PRB report, there have been views, reactions and outbursts from all quarters. Many things have been said – it even started when the report was released, with a walk-out followed by a walk-in by union leaders! What a childish way to react about not enough copies of the report being distributed.
Anyway, I will focus on some outrageous comments made by some union leaders/representatives of the secondary education sector, since I am an Educator with nearly 25 years teaching experience at the secondary level. It is very easy to utter all kinds of comments in the press, but the public at large is bound to distinguish between what is valid and what is sheer nonsense. The following are some issues concerning the secondary education sector which have been raised in the press:
(a) conditions for vacation leave have been changed for new entrants;
(b) conditions are worse now since previously educators enjoyed privileges similar to judges and engineers;
(c) surplus or work hours every week;
(d) heads of departments in MGSS paid less than their other counterparts;
(e) no increments for additional qualifications.
The above are some of the critics voiced out by union leaders. However, I will shed some light on these issues so that the public gets all the relevant information before forming an opinion.
(a) the person who has pointed out this issue is certainly right – but it was introduced in the 2008 report! It was then decided that new entrants as from July 2008 would be eligible for 19 days vacation leave only for a restricted series of conditions, as opposed to those already in service. Was the union leader asleep during all these years? Anyway, nearly all reports introduce new conditions which apply to new entrants – if one wants to continually remain rooted in the past…
(b)First of all, I would very much like to know when teachers enjoyed conditions similar to judges and engineers! Instead of uttering sheer nonsense, please mention specific details and then one can identify what has truly changed. I will certainly not refuse salaries in the range of Rs 60 000 to Rs 176 000!
(c)In all PRB reports, there have always been two sections dealing with secondary education: one for state schools and the other one for private schools. Every report also mentions the need for harmonising the conditions for both categories of employees. The 2008 and 2013 reports mention that teachers are required to teach for 30 periods per week, for both state and private schools.  The big difference is that state schools work for 9 periods daily, each lasting 35 minutes, whereas many private schools work for 8 periods daily each lasting 40 minutes. Thus, a teacher in a state school usually worked for 1050 minutes weekly (30 x 35 minutes) while his counterpart of the private sector worked for 1200 minutes weekly (30 x 40 minutes)!  So all these years this discrimination has existed and nobody from the unions were aware of this? Yet, when the 2016 report mentions that teachers will have to work for approximately 1190 minutes you are shouting about an increased workload?? It is easy to see that some persons who claim to represent teachers are in fact fighting only for the interests of a group of state school teachers. Private school teachers are always taken for a ride because of their ‘insignificant’ status and almost dormant unions… At least now every secondary educator will have the same workload. Also, please do not put forward excuses like additional work will not allow teachers to give more attention to students in difficulties : teachers who work in 1-star schools really know how to deal with students and achieve pass rates which are near miracles, as opposed to some sleeping in their 5-star palaces!
(d)The 2013 report initially proposed an allowance of Rs 1320 for heads of department (HOD) in both state and private school educators. But the Anomalies report which came one year later introduced a greater anomaly: state school HODs were to receive Rs 2000 whereas their private school colleagues were given Rs 1500! This remained in place during 3 years (2013 to 2015), despite some low-key protests. However I did not hear any state school union leader come forward and shout about this discrimination: WHY? Because their HODs were receiving Rs 500 monthly more than their private school counterparts (total of Rs 18 000 for 3 years). Of course now when they are at the receiving end of an unfair condition, they will cry wolf…I really hope that the allowance will be uniform for all HODs.
(e)All conditions for additional qualifications are clearly laid out in all PRB reports. However, not everyone takes time to understand these conditions. Educators having a degree received one increment when they studied for a PGCE. But this increment is not given when a Masters degree is obtained afterwards i.e. one increment for either PGCE or Masters. Another increment is then provided for a PhD. In all fairness, to be a good teacher at secondary level we need a good first degree together with a PGCE – a Masters or PhD is simply overkill at this level. These are definitely adequate for self satisfaction or other purposes. If is unfair to say that the removal of increments will prevent teachers from studying further. What is worse is to associate this with money being lost, as one union leader has scientifically calculated – Rs 350 000 over 30 years! Those who become teachers for the sake of money do not have their place in this noble profession. Nor those who keep adding qualifications with the hope that they will be refunded later.
When the 2013 Anomalies report introduced 2 additional salary points in our scale, where were these union leaders? Did they know the consequence of this? It took two additional years for all those who had not yet reached the corresponding cut-off points to be eligible for benefits. Were these gentlemen asleep then?
This last point brings me to another issue: overqualified workers. Very often it is mentioned that employees having certain qualifications need to be paid the same salaries that others are receiving. My question is the following: is the salary given for the job being done or for the qualification one possesses? The answer is simple: if a clerk (without disrespect to this category of persons) has a first degree just like some college teachers, should the salary of clerks be aligned onto those of educators??? Anyone with some common sense will clearly see the stupidity of some arguments being put forward by people who have no brains at all! Just like it is useless to calculate the salary gap between a judge and a general worker. Education is free in our country. Anyone who wants to succeed in life has to make the effort and study real hard in order to achieve success later in life. It is too easy to claim that life is difficult, thereby dropping out of school, but yet desiring to receive 6 digit salaries! Claiming to “desan dan la ri”, burn copies of the report, go on hunger strike are very easy to make – but have all members of these unions given their approval for such measures? Do whatever you want in your name, but do not bring in others who do not share your opinions.
Finally, a personal comment about going on hunger strike because, amongst other reasons, certain officers will end their career in the same grade without any promotion. Are you aware of how many employees, including teachers, will end their careers without being promoted? In a school of about 60 teachers, there is one Rector, one Deputy, one Senior Educator, about twelve Heads of Department and seven Section Leaders: how much scope do the other teachers (38) have for promotion? Should all of them go on hunger strike for this? Or else, must the PRB create ‘new’ grades just for the sake of giving promotions? I believe that we must act as responsible citizens and give good examples to others.
I hope that readers now have a clearer view on what nonsense has been said by certain persons who claim to represent teachers. It would be a lot better to work together for the betterment of the education sector and improve the level of education of our children instead of bickering about every bit and piece which appear to affect our comfort zones. I would very much like to get a much higher salary, but surely this will be accompanied by increased prices of commodities and services. What purpose will that serve? Perpetual complaints will not solve any problems.