Token schools: Cholistan teachers being paid ‘below minimum wage’

Two schools shut down as Cholistan Literacy Project teachers quit over low wages, poor working conditions.


Kashif Zafar October 08, 2012

BAHAWALPUR:


“If the government has set the minimum salary of unskilled workers at Rs9,000 per month, why are teachers in Cholistan being paid Rs2,500 or Rs5,000 per month?,” Nusrat Shaheen, a teacher at a Cholistan Development Authority (CDA) community school at Bahawalnagar told The Express Tribune.


The CDA is authorised to operate 75 community schools under the Literate Cholistan Project (LCP) launched in 2009. As many as 5,083 children are enrolled in the programme.

The salaries of senior teachers have been set at Rs5,000 per month while junior teachers area paid Rs2,500 per month. Shaheen said teachers keep leaving the programme since they are paid fixed salaries without any regard according to their qualifications. “We teach the same hours (8am to 1pm) as regular school teachers …why is it that they are paid up to Rs40,000 per month and we only a fraction of that?,” she said.

Shumaila, a teacher at a CDA community school at Hasilpur said, “Government officials in hard areas like Cholistan usually get a special salary…but we are expected to teach under the sky in extreme heat at less than with minimum legal pay,” she said. She said two of the community schools, one in Hasilpur, the other in Yazman, had to be closed three months ago after the teachers were refused a pay enhancement.

She said there was also a shortage of textbooks at these schools. Yasir, a student of grade 2 at a CDA community school in Hasilpur, said, “We do not even get drinking water at the school. If we need it, we must return to our homes which are two to three kilometres away.”

He said there was no furniture and the students were forced to bring polythene bags to sit on. “We come to school carrying our books in one hand and a water vessel (matka) in the other…the teachers are good but the school is hard,” he said.

The CDA Managing Director Javed Akhter Mehmood said the LCP was started in 2009 with a five year budget of Rs57.905 million. “We set up 75 community schools to impart primary education and hired two teachers for each,” he said.

“Salaries were set at Rs2,500 per month and Rs5,000 per month for junior and senior teachers respectively. The community was to provide the accomodation,” he said.

He said the CDA had sent a summary for raising increase the teachers’ pay in 2011. “The request was rejected…we are now sending another summary for the same,” he said.

“We had to shut two of the schools after teachers refused to continue due to the low salaries,” he said. He said the Education Department offices in Bahawlpur had provided them older editions of books which were provided to students in April 2012.

A CDA official speaking on the condition of anonymity said all 150 female teachers had demanded that their salaries be brought at par with Education Department teachers. He said they had also demanded a hard area allowance.

He said as many as 102 teachers at the CDA community schools had obtained a minimum of an FA, with some even possessing MA degrees. As many as 48 teachers were matriculates who had to be employed given the lack of better qualified applicants, he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2012.

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