Neglected Primary teachers

Neglected primary school teachers
By TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (March 13 2010): The success of any education system largely depends on the success of its teachers, especially primary school teachers (PSTs). They bring and ensure change, modernisation, reformation, and intellectual development in a given society by transmitting knowledge and promoting ideas/values.

But to be able to that effectively, they must be mentally satisfied and made free from financial worries. Teachers are generally criticised for their lack of commitment and devotion towards their duties. They may be partly responsible for the deteriorating standard of education. But to blame all the ills on their ‘poor’ performance may be an exaggeration. There are certainly many other factors involved.

No one can deny the fact that teachers have been at the lowest of priorities of successive governments. They have received relatively less recognition. Their terms of service have been quite inadequate as compared with other professionals. They rarely figure in the honour lists announced each year.

Ali, a PST, started his career in the basic pay scale (BPS) 7 in 1990. He was an FA then, with a Primary teaching certificate (PTC) course (the basic requisite for the PST was Matric with PTC at the time). In 1991, he was awarded BPS 9 for being or FA, but he continued in the same scale for 17 years. During the time, he passed his MA and also got a certificate in teaching (CT), Bachelor in Education (B.Ed), and Master in Education (M.Ed). Luckily, last year he was amongst the thousands of teachers who were promoted to BPS 12 for having completing ten years of service.

Malik Kahlid Khan, the president of All Primary Teachers Association (APTA) NWFP, said around 75,000 PSTs in NWFP have been neglected so far. “There is no service structure and promotion rules for them. They started and finished their career as PSTs. They had the benefits of a selection grade (which was given after some years of service), a move-over (which was given after an employee crossed the last stage of his scale) and advance increments, but all these were withdrawn in 2001. The decision was enforced from retrospective effect and thus thousands of PSTs were reverted from 13th and 14th scales to 9th and 10th scales. This was a great injustice,” said Khan.

Mian Abdul Bari, an office bearer of All-teachers association (ATA), is unhappy at the world of difference between the scales. He urged the government should decrease the stages of the lower scales as well. “Before 2001, for scales 1 to 16, the stages were 15, while for scales 17 to 22, there were 10 stages. In 2001, these were increased for the former to 30 stages.

For 17th to 19th scales, these were made 20 while for scales 20 to 22, these were made 14. This simply means that those in the higher scales would reach the last stage of their scale and get promotion to the next grade quickly. The PSTs, however, may retire in that very scale as they will have to cross thirty stages, for which they must wait for thirty annual increments.”

According to him, the initial take-home salary of a PST was around Rs 5500 which should be increased. “The PSTs serving in scales 7, 9 or 12 receive fixed house rent allowance from Rs 1069 to 1306 and medical allowance of Rs 5500. It is well short of their needs and market rates,” said Bari.

He said promotions should be based on both seniority and qualification. “The government last year awarded BPS 12 to PSTs on the basis of completion of ten years of service. But it was unjustly applied. There were teachers who had completed thirty to forty years of service but they were also given that scale. Those with Matric and MA qualification were also equated,” he maintained. Another teacher said the PSTs should be given special pay scales and they must be provided opportunities to get advance training on state expenses.

Khan said rural teachers should be given preferential treatment. “During my meeting with Dr Ishrat, I suggested a minimum take home salary of Rs 40,000 pay for urban and Rs 45,000 for rural area PSTs. I think there should be a few categories of employees and each should be given a lump sum salary,” he said. Dr Ishrat Hussain-led pay and pension committee (PPC) is finalising its report on the pay scales of public sector employees.

NWFP minister for education Sardar Hussain Babak, when contacted, confirmed that the service structure is in the final stages. “But I can safely say that the package would be of immense benefit to thousands of PSTs in the province. The fact is that successive regimes of the past have neglected the teachers. They should have been given a service structure but unfortunately they weren’t. They deserve it and we would be shortly announcing it,” he said. The minister however urged them to be dutiful and punctual in discharging their duties.

A high-placed source in the NWFP’s ministry of education, wishing anonymity, said that the structure would be given final shape in a meeting to be held shortly and then it would be notified. He said that promotions to scale 16, till now, were made from middle and high schools teachers. “But as per the structure, for the first time PSTs would also be promoted to 16th scale. They could even become head masters in high schools.”

He said after five years of continuous service and completing a 60-day course, PSTs would be promoted as CT/middle schools teachers (MSTs). After the service of five more years and undergoing another 60 days course, they would be promoted as SET/high school teachers (HSTs). They would also be eligible from then on to be part of the general SET seniority. PSTs would be the biggest beneficiaries as, being in the majority, they would receive the bulk of the share in the promotions to the above posts,” the source said.

All the promotions would not require any further qualification, except the pre-recruitment one – FA with the PTC, he said. He agreed with the observation of this writer that the move over, selection grade and advance increments on higher qualification weren’t going to be revived.

Responding to a query, the official explained that the service structure would be applied from the date it was issued on and it would benefit the younger and ablest teachers. It meant that the old guards who had completed thirty to forty years of service, wouldn’t get any benefit, which could be resented. Also, the decision to award promotions on the basis of experience alone in the suggested service structure may result in the promotion of incompetent teachers to high schools.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

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