Srinagar: Staff, including teachers and bus drivers, at the elite Delhi Public School (DPS), Budgam who have been demanding pay hike for long finally went on a strike Friday forcing administration to declare a holiday for the day in the school.
“Due to potential strike call by some senior school teachers and bus drivers, the school will be closed tomorrow (Friday). We will meet staff tomorrow to sort out matters. We will keep you updated,” an SMS from the school management sent to students read.
Teachers and other staff in the school complain of being underpaid while being ‘overburdened’ with work. While such complaints are rampant, contrary to general perception, that teachers working in private schools are better off than their counterparts in government schools, this is for the first time that teachers and other staff at a private school have gone on a protest strike.
DPS Budgam was established in 2008 in Humhama, in the city outskirts and with a roll of more than 4000 students is one of the most sought-after private schools in the city.
According to students, “This protest has been going on since the last week of May. On many days, senior students had to take care of classrooms as the teachers were out protesting. “They have still been able to cover our class syllabus, but the students of tenth and twelfth, who have boards this year are suffering as they are lagging behind,” students, this reporter talked to, said.
The teachers have been protesting the ‘low salary’ that they receive from the school. According to them, the school collects exorbitant fees from the parents in the name of “development” and earn high profits, but do not pass on the financial benefits proportionately to their teaching staff. They also allege that the attitude of the administration viz a viz this issue has been ‘insensitive’ and towards teachers ‘undignified’.
“The teachers are demanding an increment in their salaries. We are making all efforts to revise their salaries as per their requirements and negotiate with them so no more classes are wasted,” according to Mehfooz Aslam, Principal of the school.
However late on Friday Principal Aslam told Kashmir Observer: “We are having some internal disagreements with the teachers but the talks from the administration side are through. We are going to most probably open the school tomorrow (Saturday), rest depends on the teachers if they join or not.”
While Principal sounded optimistic, parents are a worried lot.
“Teachers demand is genuine. When they are paid good they will then only give their best”, said A Mir, a parent who only wanted to be known by this name. He however added that, “Whatever the outcome buck will stop at parents because school will now increase the monthly fee to compensate for shortfall in its profit.”
According to sources, a primary school teachers on an average is paid Rs. 12,000 per month while the monthly fee for students upto 10th standard is approximately Rs. 4000 per month. Likewise for the students of senior secondary, it is approximately Rs. 5000 per month.
A parents’ association, consisting of the parents’ of students who are suffering academically due to the strike has also been formed.
Ruhi Aslam, mother of an eighth class student said, “The problem is not just the high fee that we pay to the school, it is that every year there is hike in fee. If they are not paying their teachers, where is the money going? Even the admission fee that we paid was close to a lakh.” Admission fee is a one-time fee given at the time of admission into a private school.
Only in January this year, the Government Fee Fixation Committee (GFFC) approved the annual fee hike of six percent for private schools, yet there was no salary hike for the teachers”, said Andleeb Zehra, another parent.
Hina Basheer, an ex-student of DPS said, “If the fee is increased, it will be highly unfair to the parents. The principal must take into account the point of view of the parents’ while taking a decision on the matter.”
Responding to these concerns Principal Mehfooz Aslam said, “Private schools are actually in a pathetic condition because we’re the one being pushed around from all sides- workers, teachers, students and even parents. We’re stuck, but still trying to do our best to keep them all happy.”
(Courtesy: Kashmir Observer)