Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 11:
The spotlight stayed firmly on teachers both inside and outside the Odisha Assembly on Wednesday.
Outside, around 40,000 school teachers gathered under the banner of School Teachers’ Federation of Odisha (STFO), an umbrella organization of 14 teachers’ organizations, put the government on notice with a war cry.
Pure venom spewed forth as leader after leader, teacher after teacher made mincemeat of the government for what they called its ‘total apathy’ and indifference to the sorry plight of the teachers. Describing the BJD government a ‘nikamma’ (useless), a particularly agitated leader thundered that the teachers would not budge from the place till their demands were conceded.
The demands of STFO include uniform government assistance to all schools, full assistance instead of block grant, regularization of jobs of ganasikshyaks, immediate release of grants to eligible schools, recognition of fully aided schools as government schools, seniority for appointed teachers and implementation of Central pay scales.
“Our main demands are regularization of jobs of all teachers, end of the block grant system, equal facilities and service rules for all teachers appointed under different programmes and change in the existing duty hours of 9.30 am to 5.30 pm,” said Prakash Chandra Mohanty, Convenor STFO.
With the air rent with the war cry outside, it was only natural that its reveberations were felt inside the House. Accusing the BJD government of neglecting school education during a debate on an adjournment motion on the issue, the Opposition siad the education system in the state had completely collapsed due to lack of adequate number of teachers and proper infrastructure .
Participating in the adjournment motion debate, Opposition Congress and BJP members expressed concern over the future of students. They said the absence of teachers in schools had severely hit the studies of the students.
While Congress members Naba Kishore Das, Subala Sahu and Tara Prasad Bahinipati hit out at the government for the “pathetic state of affairs” in the schools, BJP’s Basant Panda alleged that school education in the state had completely collapsed due to continuous neglect.
Opposition legislators said a large number of schools are manned by single teachers, while many schools lacked proper infrastructure and functioned from one room.
Defending the government, ruling BJD members Pratap Jena, Prafulla Samal and Sanjeeb Sahu said the government had taken a number of steps for the spread of education in the state. They however, said that shortage of teachers needed to be tackled quickly.
School and Mass Education Minister Debi Prasad Mishra dismissed allegations that education was affected due to shortage of teachers. In his reply to the motion, he said vacancies were being filled regularly as per requirement.
In accordance with the provisions of the Right To Education Act , as many as 2,24,330 teachers were needed in the state, while there were 1,89,569 teachers at present, the minister said, adding the process was under way for recruitment of 16,601 teachers.
Mishra said around 1.24 lakh teachers have been recruited during the past 14 years.
Dissatisfied with the minister’s reply, Congress members staged a walk-out from the House.