Out of Work, Teachers Are Forced to Sell Vegetables, Repair Tyres. Our Educators Deserve Better


Out of Work, Teachers Are Forced to Sell Vegetables, Repair Tyres. Our Educators Deserve Better

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

The coronavirus pandemic has spared no sphere of human activity. Everyone has been affected, from migrant labourers to white-collar workers. And, as reports from Delhi and Mumbai indicate, even teachers have been negatively impacted by the effects of the pandemic. Across the country, as schools are forced to pivot to online classes, this new normal has hurt the livelihood of teachers. Unemployed for months, they have had to turn to other sources of income and find work in different fields.

In Delhi, the guest teachers at government-run schools have been out of work since May. Reports state that there are more than 20,000 guest teachers employed in 1,030 government schools across the national capital. These guest teachers work on a contractual basis and are paid between ₹1,040 and ₹1,400 per day. They are not paid for weekends, vacations, and national holidays. Since schools closed due to the pandemic, many of them have been out of work and forced to look for alternatives.

A report in Hindustan Times uncovered many such anecdotes. There is an English teacher who had to turn to selling vegetables and fruits from a cart in Delhi’s Sultanpuri. Another teacher who taught natural science has not been asked to work since April, and is repairing tyres to make ends meet. The report quotes Ajay Veer Singh, general secretary of the government school teachers’ association, as saying, “We have written to the education department and the education minister multiple times highlighting the plight of guest teachers. We had requested them to make some arrangements for the guest teachers during the lockdown since many of them are the only earning members.”

In Mumbai, a ban on online classes for students from the pre-primary level to Class 2 has meant many pre-schools have been forced to close. This has put many of the educators working with these schools out of work. The non-profit Early Childhood Association wrote to the School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad, stating that over 9,000 pre-schools in Maharashtra will be affected by this ban on online classes for the youngest students.

The pandemic has affected even teachers working in private schools. According to a report in The Indian Express, a school principal in Telangana has been forced to sell idlis. The school management decided they don’t need a principal until the institute re-opens.

This is normally the time of year when most schools are reopening after summer vacations and teachers are preparing for another academic year. But like so many things in a post-Covid world, the new normal doesn’t feel normal at all.