Shillong: The agitating contractual teachers under the banner of the Meghalaya Government Lower Primary School Contractual Teachers’ Association (MGLPSCTA) called off the month-long strike on Friday evening after Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui assured them that “age condonation” would be given to them so they can reappear for the Meghalaya Teacher Eligibility Test (MTET).

It may be mentioned here that the contractual teachers were on an indefinite strike from September 7, demanding reinstatement of their jobs.

Seeing that their long peaceful sit-in demonstration bore no result, the teachers along with their family members on Thursday decided to march towards the Secretariat. But, the police resorted to tear gas shelling at the agitating teachers to control the situation.

“Why are we treated like animals and terrorists?” asked one of the contractual teachers after police fired tear gas at the agitating teachers.

Speaking to EastMojo, Joy (name changed), a private school teacher from Nongstoin, said, “It is not just about teachers. Police fired tear gas at us. It is the same as resorting to violence. The government should first try it on themselves and use it on others. There were small children and pregnant women so one should understand the repercussions of tear gas shelling. Why don’t you use it on yourself first and see what are the consequences?”

Echoing similar views, an agitated teacher from Sohra, Lahun Blah said, “The police action was equivalent to treating us like terrorists. It was a peace rally and we were unarmed. What was the need for excessive force?” 

Expressing concern about the teachers who have been in the service for over 10 years, Blah said that it would be a challenge for them to compete for jobs or sit for an exam.  

Asked about the government’s decision to make Meghalaya Teacher Eligibility Test ( MTET) mandatory for appointing quality teachers, Blah said, “The need for quality teachers is all right, but the teachers while trying to clear those criteria like MTET should not be removed from their jobs.”

T Lymphuid, a contractual teacher from Ri-Bhoi district, narrated her ordeal without a job. “I am a mother of four. Earlier, when I had a job, I could manage and run the family accordingly and also send the children to school. But now without jobs I am facing all kinds of challenges. I have been doing multiple jobs just to make ends meet,” said T Lymphuid.

Promod Neogi, a teacher at Tura Govt Bengali Boys’ LP School, has been in the service for 9 years. What was done to the agitating teachers was unexpected from a welfare government, he says.

“We are humans, not animals. We have served for several years and this is how we have been treated. We were asked to appear D.EL.Ed exams and we did. Now just because we didn’t clear MTET, we have been removed. Had we known that such kind of changes will be brought in we would have never got into this profession,” stated Neogi.

“I haven’t been able to provide anything to my family and I am not even able to celebrate any festivals,” complained Neogi.

Another teacher from West Khasi Hills District, Latika (name changed) feels that MTET and other criteria are just a formality. She has been in the teaching profession for nearly 13 years now. Fortunately, she cleared MTET and now has a permanent job.

Latika said, “Over the years I have seen that the education system in Meghalaya keeps changing. Due to this many teachers live in fear because any day the government may come up with a new set of criteria. Every year the government keeps demanding new qualifications, which doesn’t make any sense. These exams don’t help us as teachers at all.”

Joy lamented the lack of transparency in conducting the Meghalaya Teacher Eligibility Test. While she cleared the MTET exam itself, she failed to clear the interview round.

“I personally don’t understand what the government wants. First, it says to get a B.ed/ D.El.Ed certificate, then get experience certificate and lastly get MTET certificate. I have done everything. Yet the government is not satisfied and held me back during the personal interview process… Isn’t a personal interview meant to see the candidate’s attitude, character, etc? There are many schools in Meghalaya with less or no teachers at all but still, the government is not clearing teachers who are qualified,” mentioned Joy.

It may be mentioned that the contractual teachers were appointed on temporary/adhoc basis for a period of 59 days and have been in service for the past 2-10 years. They were appointed as a stop-gap arrangement in view of the exigencies faced by the government.

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