In the last couple of months, three middle school teachers in Morigaon district chose to end their lives. They had been hoping against hope that their schools and posts would be provincialised by the Assam government; that once regular salaries began coming their way, their economic problems would be a thing of the past. But that was not to be, so suicide seemed to them the only option left. Meanwhile, about 34,500 primary TET teachers, appointed on contractual basis, are agitating for salaries they have not received for the last two months. Many of them are working far away from home; they need to eat and pay rent, meet daily expenses and send money to their families. So to survive, either they must give tuitions, or their families must take to farming or some petty business. These teachers are now staring at the prospect of starting the New Year neck-deep in debt. They are angry that the State government is not able to muster even 10 percent of its contribution to their salaries paid under the Sarba Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) — without which the remaining 90 percent contribution from the Central government will not materialize, even though it is said to be ready. This is the situation in a State still needing about 23,400 additiol primary school teachers to fulfill its statutory obligations under the Right to Education (RTE), which grants free and universal elementary education to citizens as a fundamental right. Not just teachers, many government schools too are struggling to survive. Reportedly, 37 primary schools have closed down due to lack of students in the present Education minister’s home district Sivasagar. Government schools in the State are in such woeful condition that even their teachers think twice about sending their children to such schools. In contrast, private schools are booming, despite some known to be violating norms and having suspect credentials. For many years, Assam also happened to be the only state allowing so-called venture schools to be set up; they had to be later brought up to standard before provincialisation. Human resource being the most precious of all resources, no state can afford to let education drift and educators languish, like Assam is doing.
Food for thought