To make up for vacancies, colleges employ guest lecturers who end up teaching in several places

For nearly two semesters last academic year, students of some government and aided colleges in the city attended few classes.

Barring a guest lecture or two, there was not much they could look forward to. The students lost almost 20 hours of classroom teaching every week.

“It was only by November-end, when examinations were nearing, that guest lecturers began taking classes,” says a professor who teaches at a city college.

The problem will worsen unless the higher education department takes some measures to fill the large number of teaching vacancies in government and government-aided colleges across the State.

Huge gaps

The vacancies are spread across the departments of English, economics, chemistry, physics, commerce, zoology, botany, history, mathematics and computer science in government degree colleges.

There are 3,120 assistant professor posts in aided colleges and 1,623 in government arts colleges lying vacant across the State, according to the Association of University Teachers (AUT).

A few months ago, the State government decided to recruit 1,623 guest lecturers to fill up as many vacancies as possible. The selection of guest lecturers was to commence immediately and each teacher was assured a consolidated pay of Rs. 10,000 per month.

Ad-hoc arrangements in place

But nothing has happened so far. Permanent teachers are appointed through the Teachers Recruitment Board, but for nearly ten years now, the government has been appointing only guest lecturers to fill up vacancies.

“It was an ad-hoc arrangement put in place when there were not many qualified teachers. There is a need to regularise these appointments and fill up vacant positions,” said a member of AUT.

Also, the appointment of guest lecturers was just to fill up old vacancies and does not take into the account the shortage created due to 100-200 teachers retiring every year, he said.

Orders issued several months ago for filling the vacant posts in aided and government colleges are yet to be implemented, said the AUT member.

Working overtime

According to L. Prataban, convener of the Joint Action Council of College Teachers and Employees, the delay in filling up vacancies has increased the woes of teachers.

“They are supposed to teach for just 16 hours a week but they spend 20-22 hours in classrooms, apart from carrying out the regular administrative work,” said M. Ravichandran of AUT.

“We urge the government to begin the selection procedure at least now, so that by June, there are teachers in colleges and students will not have to miss classes,” said Mr. Ravichandran.

While in colleges in Chennai, there is about 20 per cent vacancy in every department, the situation in the institutes on the outskirts and in rural areas is much worse.

No pay parity

There is a huge disparity in the salaries too. While an associate professor with considerable experience gets paid Rs. 80,000 a month in a government college, a guest lecturer is paid just about Rs. 10,000 a month, and teaching hours are often the same.

“Also, the college can terminate our service without prior notice. We are not even permitted to study for M.Phil or Ph.D. Hence, most qualified and ambitious teachers refrain from taking up guest lecture positions. But there are also those who teach in three or four colleges at the same time. That too, is an unhealthy practice,” said a guest lecturer in a government college.

Guest lecturers in aided colleges fare worse. Their salaries range between Rs. 6,000 and Rs. 8,000 a month.

“Everything depends on the whims of the management. Salaries never come on time. Appointing guest lecturers gives them the leeway to conduct only self-financing courses and make more money,” said a guest lecturer at an aided college.