Being forced to attend school on strike days, say teachers of private institutions

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‘When you leave home in formals, you send a message that you are not on strike which hurts the sentiments of those who are on strike’

Srinagar: While it seems the General Administration Department is trying to make strike calls ‘a failure’ by making attendance compulsory by installing Bio-metric Systems in government offices in Jammu and Kashmir, some private educational institutions are also pressing the employees to reach offices on strike days, jeopardizing their lives.

However, the school admins deny the allegations saying the staff ‘enjoys’ holiday on a strike day.

Kashmir is caught up in a conflict as both India and Pakistan claim the territory and have fought three wars over it. In order to protest against the ‘atrocities of the Indian armed forces’, the Joint Resistance Leadership, calls for shutdowns and strikes in order to send out a message to the world that everything is not right in the valley.

On strike days, the business and offices are supposed to come to a halt for the said dates. It only incurs losses to Kashmir and education is also a sector that suffers grossly. At present, on strike days, the educational institutions send text messages to parents asking them to keep their wards at home. However, the staff members are asked to come to the school.

“Whatever be the case, we are supposed to go. The authorities try to keep us engaged with paperwork but we really face hardships in order to mark the attendance,” says a former teacher from a private institution located in Pulwama. On condition of keeping his and the school’s identity anonymous, he also told Free Press Kashmir that the school would force the local teachers to come to the school and make them sign a six monthly contract so they don’t claim the salary for the winter vacation time.

“On the days when we work, we work enough to deserve the salary while the school is shut. The contract they make us sign remains with them. Asking for salary or not coming on strike days means termination,” he says adding that he resigned from the school.

The teachers from Srinagar would be allowed to stay back home while the local teachers from the ‘always on boil’ Pulwama would be asked to attend the school with no students to teach.

“Pulwama is the area that is not safe to travel. When you leave home in formals, you send a message that you are not on strike which hurts the sentiments of those who are on strike. This is something that the school doesn’t consider. We literally risk our lives for peanuts,” says the tutor.

Moreover, teachers from Urban areas complain about the same, saying that they ought to attend the school despite all odds. While talking to FPK, a faculty member from Oasis Educational Institute said that the administration calls them to school even if they have to kill time just by sitting there.

“The students are sitting at home and we are asked to come. We keep sitting for the day but we are not allowed to stay back home. This not only puts our lives at risk but also frustrates us,” said the member. The school authorities did not respond to the calls on the contact number provided on their website.

Another institute, International Islamic School (IIS) also follows the same line when it comes to going against the strike calls.

“The staff is not allowed to leave early on Fridays, not to talk of the strike days. Even today, it follows the same lines,” says a former employee from IIS.

While in rural areas, the authorities threaten the employees out loud, here in Srinagar the authorities deny all the allegations.

“The staff doesn’t come on strike days. They enjoy the holiday at their home. In fact, we pay them for that day too,” said the Public Relations Officer of IIS.

“When the call for the strike is not so serious, we do come to the school. On that day, we work on the maintenance of registers, hold meetings, check and update the syllabus, make activity reports. There is always something we get to work on,” says Khawaja Irfan, a +2 lecturer from Tyndale Biscoe School, Srinagar.

“Even on days when we don’t have much to do, we play matches and the time passes. On strict strike call days, we are asked to stay home but the non-teaching staff is supposed to come, come what may,” Ifran says.

An official from the school told FPK that “it doesn’t matter to the non-teaching staff whether there is a strike or not.”

“We have nothing to do with the children. We have official work and that is what we are supposed to do even when there are strikes. So, we come,” he says, wishing to remain anonymous.

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