Amidst a grievously fuming political situation in Kerala, the state prepares to face protests from around 6000 Special Needs School employees from across 288 schools on 13th December 2018.
The staff have decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike until their demands are met.
The strike is all set to begin today with a march to the State Assembly in Thiruvananthapuram.
On the 10th of December 2018, people all across the globe celebrated as World Human Rights Day completed its 70th anniversary, but is the celebration for everyone? This is a question we have to ask ourselves.
What is the protest all about?
For a long time the government in Kerala has ignored the working conditions of its special school staff across 288 schools.
The teachers providing special care for disabled children work through the day to earn a meagre sum of just Rs. 4500 to Rs. 6000 as salary. Additionally, the maids and helps are paid an even smaller salary of Rs. 2000.
This is a matter of terrible injustice as their counterparts with the same qualifications as them working at IED (Inclusive Education For The Disabled)/SSA (Sarva Shiksha Abhyaan) /BUDS (school for mentally challenged children) earn a salary seven times higher.
To top it all, none of the teachers or staff come under any pension or welfare scheme which most other government servants benefit from.
What has the present government done for them?
According to the staff and organisers of the protest, the government behaves in an extremely indifferent manner towards them.
“We suffer every month as we have no savings and ever since the bus fare hike, it’s difficult to commute as well ”
said Jayan, a teacher at one of the Special Needs School.
All the promises made in the past have proved to be hollow and the teachers struggle everyday to make ends meet.
In the past the government had promised to provide:
1. Aid to all special needs schools across the state
2. Integrated package allowances for each school
3. Covering all staff under the state Pension Scheme and Kshema Nidhi (A government scheme aiming at its employees benefit)
None of these promises have been fulfilled and only 1 out of 288 schools have been given government aid.
Demands set forth by the protestors
The protesting staff have made one thing very clear- that there is no going back unless their demands are met.
Their demands are:
1. Provide government aid to all 288 special schools
2. Cover all staff under available employee schemes
3. Ensure job security
4. Effectuate all electoral promises to the special schools including Integrated Packages and the 40 crore fund allotment
Severe Payment Difference Across The Same Sector
Provided below are the details of salary differences across three recipients of government salary in the same field.
Recipient Teacher Help
IED 28,500 12,200
BUDS 30,650 17,325
SNS* Up to 6000 Up to 3500
*SNS:- Special Needs School
What’s most Interesting is how the staff at IED and BUDS are temporary and have to work only twice or thrice a week unlike the Special Needs School staff who have to slog everyday.
“On an average the current government spends around Rs. 6500 per school annually to academically aid the students when the yearly expense is around Rs. 1,25,000”
said Ashiq Katikulam one of the protest organisers.
Everyday these workers spend their sweat and blood taking care of these children like their own. In spite of that, the society hardly sees them and the government wilfully ignores them.
Numerous individuals across different spaces have come out in solidarity with these teachers.
They deserve to be paid better and treated more humanely. This is where the state’s priorities must focus and solutions must be found.
We stand in solidarity with each Special Needs School staff to ensure they get better working conditions.
Image Credits: ASSA, Protestors and Special Needs School Staff
Source: Ashiq Kayatikulam (protest organiser)
Find the author on twitter @susharohan