When it comes to burdening teachers with all sorts of non-teaching duties, the present Harya government takes the cake. Recently, over a hundred teachers in Yamugar district got a rude shock when they were instructed by the State Education department to officiate as priests at the annual 'Kapal Mochan' festival. They had to first attend a priest training session where they learnt the nitty-gritties of chanting mantras, distributing prasad and counting the cash offerings made by devotees. Teachers who dared to bunk class last Sunday were immediately at the receiving end of sarkari ire. Stern letters were issued to the truant teachers seeking explation, along with dire warning of punishment if they skipped training again. When mediapersons asked Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar about this, he straightaway ducked the bouncer by calling it a "local issue". However, some State BJP leaders have been more forthcoming, finding nothing amiss in assigning teachers to "make arrangements" for the 4-day festival. But grumbling by government teachers refuses to die down, since this is not an isolated incident. Only a few days back, teachers in Sirsa district were ordered to stay up all night and keep an eye on errant farmers in their fields. Having harvested their crops, farmers are burning the stubble in the dead of night, setting off thick smog in the entire tiol capital region. With the pollution control authority and district administrations trying hard to enforce a Green Tribul ban while farmers are adamantly defying it — hapless teachers have been pitch-forked bang in between the two opposing sides. Many teachers have asked how they will be taking classes in the day if they have to maintain all-night vigils and take on angry farmers. The teachers' angst is understandable, considering that they have been roundly blamed for dismal board exam results in the State. In past three years in a row, over half the students sitting for the class X Harya board exams have failed. But Harya is not alone. The Annual Status of Education Reports (ASERs) have shown that countrywide, the state of school education is so pathetic that three-fifth of class VIII students struggle to read English texts meant for class II. The state of math education in the schools is worse still. Government school teachers in Assam, presently going through their own post-exam jitters courtesy Gunotsav, will surely empathise with their counterparts in Harya. While mercifully not yet being tasked with bizarre duties like doubling up as priests or night watchmen — school teachers in the State have stoically borne their share of non-teaching duties like census work, electoral roll revision, NRC registration and sundry surveys, apart from feeding mid-day meals to students and shouldering administrative chores. This practice has to end, if teachers are to be held strictly accountable with 'perform or perish' mantra every time board exam results come out.
Teachers as all-rounders