22 years ago, Sushama (name changed) had to shell out Rs. 1.50 lakh for a job as a teacher in an aided higher secondary school in the district.

Though it may sound a measly sum today, the teacher recollects that it could have bought her a decent plot of land then. But even that didn’t ensure job security immediately. She had to work for a meagre pay of Rs. 1,000 for four years and managed to survive because her father bankrolled her. However, not all were so fortunate and one of her colleagues committed suicide on failing to make ends meet.

That period and those memories flashed across her mind when asked about the circular issued by the Directorate of Higher Secondary Education, which is perceived to check the powers of managements in the appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff in aided higher secondary schools.

“The circular seems to have a very good intention of reining in the managements and it has not come a day soon considering that the “price” of a teacher’s job in a higher secondary school has reached dizzying heights of about Rs. 25-30 lakh. With teachers getting decent pay from the very outset there are many who are ready to pay that price. But the million-dollar question is how effectively will the circular be implemented,” she said. She even felt that her management may have already entered into some kind of deal to fill the post when she retires.

The managements’ clout in the running of aided higher secondary schools did not need any further proof as none of the teachers The Hindu spoke to were willing to be quoted fearing retribution for speaking up.

A male teacher who paid Rs. 1 lakh back in 1997 to get the job wondered whether more government control is going to make things worse. “Forget about stopping managements from taking money from candidates. Cash will change hands as long as there are educated youth willing to pay in their desperation to get a job and managements ready to accept it. If anything, red-tape will choke the running of the schools,” he said.

The teacher said that to the best of his knowledge the circular calls for reporting the posts falling vacant to the government and getting prior approval for filling it up. If that’s the case then there is every probability that the posts will remain vacant for months, taking a toll on students’ education.

Another teacher who has been working in a Christian management school for the last 13 years said it was always good if merit got top priority. But he doubts whether the circular will be able to curb the powers of the management. “It calls for the inclusion of a government nominee in the interview board. But the management will still have upper hand with principal and manager being the other members of the board. Also how can one be sure that the government nominee will not be bought off by the management,” he said.

Preeti, a postgraduate student waiting for the result of the State Eligibility Test held last month, felt that with the present state of things, the circular can only better things.

“At present there is a feeling of resignation even while preparing for the test. It’s a foregone conclusion that merit holds value only if you can back it up with cash. How many candidates can pay lakhs to secure a job,” she asked. Muralidharan, her father, said the very fact that the managements were going hammer and tongs at the circular makes it clear that it was well-intentioned. “They realise that unchecked fleecing won't be possible,” he said.

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