Jul. 26, 2017: In a blow to the already ailing education infrastructure in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Shiksha Mitras have decided to boycott and stop attending schools following the Supreme Court order yesterday that quashed their appointment as full time teachers. The Uttar Pradesh Government has regularized the jobs of 1.78 lakh “Shiksha Mitras” as teachers in juniours schools in the state to counter the shortage of teachers in the primary schools. However, the apex court has quashed the order, suggesting that the appointment is not validated as many do not have the pre-requisite qualifications as laid down by the Centre under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act.
Yesterday, a bench comprising of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit stated that the regularization of the jobs was against the fundamental right of the children to get quality education. The bench confirmed that those Shiksha Mitras who have the necessary qualification or have acquired the same in the interim can be appointed as full time teachers. However, to appoint all without following the rile of the law was against the purpose. The Court has also made provisions, however, that the Shiksha Mitras be continued as per the terms of the initial appointments as a ‘stop gap’ arrangement. The bench has stated that a temporary arrangement, however, cannot be extended when it is detrimental to the welfare of the students.
The bench stated, “On the one hand, we have the claim of 1.78 lakhs persons to be regularized in violation of law, on the other hand is the duty to uphold the rule of law and also to have regard to the right of children in the age of 6 to 14 years to receive quality education from duly qualified teachers. Thus, even if for a stop gap arrangement teaching may be by unqualified teachers, qualified teachers have to be ultimately appointed. It may be permissible to give some weightage to the experience of Shiksha Mitras or some age relaxation may be possible, mandatory qualifications cannot be dispensed with. Regularization of Shiksha Mitras as teachers was not permissible.” Further, the court has also stated that regularization would be an irregularity.
As for the question on the career of the Shiksha Mitras, Supreme Court bench has stated that consideration for the career of 1.78 lakh Shiksha Mitras cannot be over and abover ‘their legal right’ and neither can it weigh against the fundamental rights of millions of students. Also, the bench stated, “In view of our conclusion that the Shiksha Mitras were never appointed as teachers as per applicable qualifications and are not covered by relaxation order under Section 23(2) of the RTE Act, they could not be appointed as teachers in breach of Section 23(1) of the said Act. The State is not competent to relax the qualifications.”
Following the ruling, however, 1.78 lakh Shiksha Mitras have decided against attending the schools on Wednesday. The head of the Shiksha Mitra Welfare Association, Jiterndra Shahi has commented that the decision is indeed misfortunate and has decided to file another plea with the apex court. However, with the Supreme Court suggesting that the State Government can make necessary provisions to ensure the same has given them hope. Mr. Shahi has commented that the UP Government can make a provision to ensure that the career of Shiksha Mitras is not adversely affected. Failing a suitable resolution, the association has threatened to continuance of strike.
In 1999, the State Government had decided to appoint Shiksha Mitras to teach students in the villages. These Shiksha Mitras were required to have a minimum qualification of Intermediate level and the primary function was to educate the masses in the villages about the importance of education. However, in 2010, the National Council Teachers’ Education (NCTE) made it mandatory for teachers to have qualified the Teachers’ Eligibility Test (TET). Only with the necessary qualification could a teacher be then appointed from the primary level upwards. In Uttar Pradesh, however, the Samajwadi Party Government in 2012 initiated the processes of regularizing these appointments as full time teachers. In 2014 the state government also amended the teaching rules to not require qualification of TET and passes a resolution which confirmed the assimilate of Shiksha Mitras as Assistant Teachers. Supreme Court, yesterday, in the order cancelled the appointment as illegal and against the ‘fundamental’ right of the children to education.