Government employees must do their duty faithfully and ensure their access to public at least during office hours. Every public servant is useful for society if he/she does the service devotedly. True, teachers are supposed to do more and set examples of good public service. The good thing is that school teachers in Jammu and Kashmir have never been unable or unwilling to serve public in multiple roles. A question: are we treating these teachers well in return?
No government employee can claim that his/her service is not as important as that of a teacher and that he/she can afford to neglect duty. For example, if a road has potholes and is unsafe for driving, the employee concerned is duty bound to report the issue to the higher authorities, not ignore it saying it is not important. And if a water works employee notices that water supply is not working well, he/she is required to take the action. Just assuming that my duty is not so important is a public offense. Agreed that teaching profession is a gateway to nation building and there is no room for negligence, but that does not and should not mean that teachers are not liable to commit human errors.
What is noteworthy is that good and bad employees are present in every department, every sector. Some employees neglect work and prefer their own comfort at the cost of public needs and aspirations. Such people may also be seen in the form of teachers. But most of the teachers are doing fine and their work is awardable. It is because of those noble teachers that government schools are performing fairly well if not living up to the expectations fully. Without exaggeration, if these teachers get better facilities and social recognition, they can open a new chapter of excellence in the teaching-learning domain of J&K.
Apart from teaching children even amid the COVID-19 pandemic through online or community classes, the school teachers here serve this society in other roles as well. Since the emergence of the deadly disease, these teachers worked at COVID- centers at the cost of their own comfort and life. While people were saving their skin from the fatal illness, the teachers were leading from the front for the safety of public and serving the patients like nurses and doctors. Not only that, the teachers have worked shoulder to shoulder with the health workers during the COVID vaccination programme and have went from door to door to get people vaccinated. Are these acts by the teachers not a reflection of their spirit of service and sacrifice? No monetary compensation can be a substitute to this dedicated service from the school teachers.
For election duty or census, it is the school teachers who are asked to perform the duty. Although this is a very risky undertaking in Kashmir context, the teachers perform it at the expense of their comfort and even life. One may argue that the teachers are government employees and can be used to work in any capacity, but are teachers the only government employees at the grass roots level? Now by performing these big activities, the teachers are serving this society. Yet, sometimes we mistreat them in public institutions by delaying the redressal of their genuine issues.
Most importantly, teachers prove very good neighbors and responsible citizens. Granted, I repeat there may be some bad elements like there are in every sector. Never has a teacher taught students to smoke, abuse others, steal things or indulge in corruption to harass public. Never, has a good teacher been seen smoking or doing any other mischief for others to learn indirectly. In the past many government employees have been caught doing other social evils as well besides using foul language in public. Teachers fight against domestic violence inflicted upon women. Good teachers and for that matter better educated people do not throw dust or garbage on to roads or streets to create a public nuisance. Very rare cases of teachers can be found at public courts.
Additionally, teachers, especially the school teachers do not work for the consideration of extra income. Whenever public visits schools for any piece of work, teachers do it without any greed. Thus, teachers do not indulge in bribery or public harassment for money. We have seen teachers leaving their own chair for an elderly person visiting a school or writing an application for a person visiting a school. Not a single penny is demanded in return.
But what do the school teachers get in return? Exploitation, hate, undue criticism and denial of recognition. Which government employee is doing far better than teachers? When the teachers have to get their own piece of work done in any office, delayed service— after knowing their name and status—is the first answer. Harassment under this and that pretext is employed to show that the teacher is insignificant as a citizen. Recently, this author was at a famed hospital where I saw an employee throwing a teacher down from a patient bed saying he needed it for another patient. When the teacher complained, he was asked to stay silent and behave as a teacher.
Unless, we as a society learn to respect and recognize our teachers, we are bound to end in chaos and degeneration. Criticism, degradation and mistreatment of teachers is not a sign of a healthy society and has the serious overtones of social degeneration. Prove teachers wrong; don’t mistreat them.
(Author is a teacher by profession and RK Columnist. He can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org)