With nearly 2,000 contract teachers working in Ashram schools losing their jobs, students of these 283 schools are facing the brunt. Though it has been more than a month since classes commenced in all the schools across the state, for children studying these schools studies are yet to take off due to the teaching staff crunch.

Until 2017, every year 1,936 contract teachers were hired at the beginning of the academic session and then fired at the end. This year, however, at the behest of Dr E Naveen Nicolas, joint director of tribal welfare, no contact teacher has been appointed.

He said that only a limited number of Casual Relief Teachers (CRT) would be recruited this year. Last month, over 700 CRTs staged a protest at the chief minister’s camp office demanding renewal of their contract.

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“The recruitment will happen only after completion of the teacher transfer process because the idea is that leftover teachers from other areas will be sent to schools in Agency areas. Then the remaining vacancies will be filled with contract teachers,” explained Sarotham Reddy, president of Progressive Recognised Teachers Union, TS.

The tribal welfare department had sent a proposal to the government seeking sanction of 1,191 teaching posts but it was turned down and, instead, contact teachers were taken on board. The department has 4,695 teachers, of whom 2,500 are working in Ashram Schools and the remaining in primary schools. Most of the residential schools are concentrated in areas like Khammam, Adilabad, Warangal and Mahbubnagar, and a few ITDS schools in Nalgonda, Rangareddy and Karimnagar.

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Speaking about the condition of contract teachers, Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch leader M Shobhan Naik said that ever since they were appointment in 2003 the teachers had been neglected by the government and paid low wages despite the heavy workload. Unlike the permanent teachers, who are paid Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 a month, contract residential teachers take home a meagre Rs 12,000 a month and there are no additional benefits or incentives. Their job responsibility also requires them to stay in the hostels along with the wardens. “We fear that if the schools are not given enough strength of teachers, the quality of teaching will suffer, the enrolment rate will fall and schools for tribal children will eventually shut down,” said Naik.

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Further, poor performance in SSC examinations by tribal welfare school students is being touted as the result of inadequate teaching staff and poor monitoring of residential educational institutions in Agency mandals. Chava Ravi, general secretary of TS State United Teachers Federation, said that after the teacher transfers, those contract teachers who would be hired would not be happy and might agitate for regularisation of services. #KhabarLive