Visually challenged graduates on fast say 1,000 qualified blind teachers are still unemployed
The small group of men, who idled or lay on the road near Valluvar Kottam were all qualified, and all unemployed.
All the men have studied and trained to be teachers, but have not been able to get jobs for several years now.
According to the handful of protestors who have continued a hunger fast for the second day on Tuesday, there are 1,000 qualified visually challenged students with B.Ed., M.Ed., or M.Phil degrees across the State, but none of them have been appointed as teachers, because of their disability.
Thanks to continued unemployment, many have resorted to hawking in suburban trains, constantly on the lookout for the police who throw them out.
T. Marichelvam from Sathur is 29 years old and has an M.A., a B. Ed., and an M.Phil degree, but he sells biscuits on the trains running between Chennai Central and Tiruvallur. He has a family to support.
P. Harikrishnan is 41 and sells knick-knacks on the Tambaram – Beach sector or on the Chennai Central to Tiruvallur sector. As his M.Ed degree did not get him a teacher’s job, he is currently working towards a master’s degree in social work from Annamalai University by correspondence. His children, aged 4 and 7 are in school and he takes care of his mother too. On a good day, he earns around Rs. 100.
K. Rani, who is a qualified teacher with an M.A. and a B.Ed. degree, has two daughters and a mentally challenged husband to care for. She sells groundnuts on the Tambaram-Beach sector. All three of them hope to get a job under the quota allotted to them by the government. Rani was selected by the Teachers Recruitment Board in 2010, but has not yet received her appointment order.
K. Gopalakrishnan, president of the Arts and Literary Association for Visually Challenged Graduates, which has organised the fast, says that according to the government, 2,500 visually challenged persons have taken the teacher eligibility test this year but very few have passed as the pass percentage has not factored in their disability.
“The government should reduce the pass marks for us and make it on a par with the standards set by the University Grants Commission or in states like Kerala and Karnataka. Scribes sometimes take time to understand the subject and our answers. As a result, we are unable to write all the answers in the given time,” he said.
The protestors alleged that on Monday night, under the pretext of having them examined by doctors, the police took them away from the protest site opposite Kilpauk Medical Hospital and left them at the Koyambedu bus terminus. “This morning we found our way to Valluvar Kottam and have been protesting here.”
A total of 300 persons had come from across the State to participate in the protest and on Tuesday, all but nine fasting protestors were arrested. They were released later in the evening.
“Every time jobs are given to us only after we undertake protests. Around 100 of us are qualified for the post of lecturers in various subjects and there are 1,000 qualified to be teachers but of these, only 250 are working. When qualified persons leave for better-paid jobs as lecturers in mainstream colleges, vacancies in schools meant for the visually challenged are filled with non-disabled persons,” Mr. Gopalakrishnan said.
The association, which plans to continue to protest until the Chief Minister intervenes, demands that 200 teachers qualified in Tamil and 50 qualified in history from among them be appointed to their appropriate posts. It also wants the unemployed relief fund to be raised from Rs. 450 to Rs. 1,000 a month.