Why Andhra school teachers are planning massive protests

Why Andhra school teachers are planning massive protests

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Two Government Orders (GOs), issued in the name of reforming school education in Andhra Pradesh, have angered and irked teachers across the state. The GOs have already triggered a wave of protests and more agitations are planned when schools reopen on July 5.

While GO No 117 was issued by the School Education Department on June 10, 2020, with the sole purpose of reapportioning teaching staff in schools as per New Education Policy (NEP)2020, GO 84 was issued by the municipal administration department to transfer the municipal schools to the administrative and supervisory control of the department of school education.

What is causing a lot of distress among teachers is that once the GO 117 is implemented, the headmaster’s post will disappear from thousands of schools. Similarly, many schools will become ineligible to hire physical education teachers. According to teachers’ associations, this GO is a “threat” to school education in government schools.

Teachers from the school education department and the municipal administration jointly are demanding the withdrawal of the GOs. Already, the teachers of ZP and Mandal schools staged protests before the offices of district educational officers, while the municipal teachers are planning protests after the reopening of schools on Tuesday (June 28).

The schools in Andhra Pradesh are reopening for the new academic year on June 28 for teachers and July 5 for students. This academic year is expected to have a turbulent start.

Also read: Andhra schools’ transition from Telugu to English medium has roots in the far past

GO No 117 and the new TPR 1:30

This GO has been issued for “the reapportionment of teaching staff among various managements i.e., government, zilla parishad and mandal praja parishad as per NEP 2020 and to maintain a teacher pupil ratio (TPR) as per the Right to Education norms in the state.” But, the way it has been designed will lead to the disappearance of headmasters and physical education trainers.

The new TPR 1:30 will determine the number of teachers a school is entitled to hire. Only one-second grade teacher (SGT) will be provided for the first 30 enrollments for classes 1 and 2. A second teacher is posted from 31 enrollments onwards. One additional post is provided for every additional 30 enrolments and a headmaster post will be allotted only when the strength is more than 121.

At the pre-high school level, which has classes 3 to 8, school assistants (teachers with higher qualifications) will not be posted if the enrollment is below 98. Secondary grade teachers (primary school teachers) will be posted as per the 1:30 TPR norm.

And, as for high schools that teach classes 3 to 10, if the enrollment is less than 137, there will be no headmaster and PET. The high school whose enrollment exceeds 138 will then have the privilege of getting a headmaster and PET.

Meanwhile, high schools with classes 6 to 10, will have to forego the post of headmaster and PET if the enrollment is less than 92. The second PET will be allotted only for enrollment above 401.

In effect, thousands of teachers are expected to become surplus as per the 1:30 TPR norm and shifted to other schools. According to union leaders, every high school will have five to six teachers as a surplus. The apprehension of teachers is that the GO 117 will make the AP state overnight a teacher-surplus state and these posts will be abolished permanently making any recruitment unnecessary in the future.

Also read: AP school reforms: 22,000 teacher promotions, digital classes for 8-10

Teachers Cry Foul

Various teacher’s associations and MLCs representing teachers condemned the GOs and called for an agitation demanding the withdrawal of GO 117. In a joint statement, the MLCs, Vitapu Balasubramanyam, K S Lakshman Rao, Y Srinivasulu Reddy, I Venkateswara Rao, and Shaik Sabji alleged that the state government is implementing the diktat of the World Bank, which is set to ruin the education sector in the state. They alleged that the move is meant to cut the budgetary allocation for education by showing the teaching staff as surplus.

Talking to The Federal, V Balasubramanyam, an MLC, said, “Firstly, the government wants to show the teachers as surplus and adjust them against the vacancies. Secondly, the government can postpone the recruitment of teachers citing surplus. In every district, 1,500 to 2,000 teacher posts are being shown as surplus. The government has reportedly identified as many as 30,000 teachers’ posts as surplus. At a time, when lakhs of youth are anxiously waiting for the next round of recruitment to fill 25,000 vacancies, the government is planning to show 30,000 teachers as a surplus. What do you call this, a reform or destruction?”

Talking about the negative impact, the GO will have on quality education, he said, the TPR of 1:30 will also increase the number of single teachers across the state.

“There are about 13,000 single-teacher schools in AP. Of them, 8,343 schools have two posts. But, the second teacher post has never been filled. Now as the majority of the schools have students fewer than 30 students, they will never get that second teacher, as per GO 117,” he said.

“How can a government turn a blind eye to this aspect and increase the TPR from 20 to 30?” he asked adding that they want to mobilise the parents in their agitation against the GO 117. Hrudaya Raju, president, Andhra Pradesh Teachers Federation, said the GO 117 imposes an enormous workload on the teachers, especially on Hindi and physical science teachers.

“Under the New TPR, only one Hindi teacher is sanctioned for 18 sections and a physical science teacher for 11 sections. A Hindi pundit has to teach three periods per section in a week. He or she has to attend 54 hours per month for 18 sections. Similarly, at the rate of five periods per week per section, a physical science teacher has to take 55 periods per week. How is it possible to teach so many periods when there are only 48 periods available per week,” he asked.

Siraj, a teachers’ group leader from east Godavari district, said the narrow goal of the GO is to slash expenditure on the salary bills of teachers. Suspecting that the GO 117 has been issued to please the World Bank for a pittance $250 million credit, Siraj said the GO will permanently close the doors to the recruitment of teachers in the future. “It is bad news for lakhs of teacher aspirants in the state,” added Siraj.

Also read: Andhra employees’ protest: Jagan faces NTR-like challenge with cuts in salaries

GO No 84

GO No 84 is opposed by the municipal teachers across the state because their schools will now come under the administrative control of the school education department.

Government sources defended the GO by stating that 90 per cent of schools are under the control of the school education department, while only 10 per cent fall under the department of Municipal Administration &Urban Development (MU&UD). Bringing all schools under the control of school education will facilitate uniform monitoring, the source said.

There are 2,114 municipal schools (345 high schools, 149 upper primary schools, and 1,620 primary schools) under 59 urban local bodies with a sanctioned strength of 13,948 teachers. Stating that due to a lack of specialised officers to supervise academic activities in municipal schools on a permanent basis, there is less focus on monitoring the education, the municipal administrative department issued GO 84 to transfer the supervision of schools to the school education department.

GO 84 – Against the 74th Constitutional Amendment

The teachers are completely opposed to this GO and plan to agitate after the schools reopen on July 5. Stating that the GO goes against the spirit of the 74th Amendment of the Constitution, Somarautu Srinivasarao, president of Progressive Municipal Teachers Federation (PMTF), wondered why MA&UD transferred its own schools to the school education department.

“Municipal schools are performing better than other schools. These schools are under constant vigil of the commissioner, chairperson, councilors and school supervisors, which is absent in the mandal level schools, where Mandal Education Officers are made to look after more than one mandal,” he said.

The GO, Srinivasa Rao alleged, was issued for the benefit of politically influential teachers who want to move to urban areas. “The GO facilitates transferring municipal teachers out of municipal limits making room for others to come to towns and cities. Instead of strengthening the monitoring system in municipal schools, the GO will pave the path for the politicisation of municipal schools in the state. Government should not buckle under the pressure from teacher’s MLCs,” he said. They would approach the court if their request to withdraw the GO is not considered, Rao stated.

Amendments to GO unlikely

Meanwhile, the teachers and MLCs submitted a memorandum to education minister Botsa Satyanarayana for the withdrawal of GO 117. “We are hopeful of a positive response from the minister before the reopening of schools for students on July 5,” said MLC Balasubramanyam.

But, the sources in the government said, there won’t be a closure of any school because of the new TPR. “The apprehension of teachers is misplaced. Every step is being taken as per the NEP 2020 and in sync with the right spirit of the Right to Education Act of Andhra Pradesh,” the sources, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Federal.

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