As the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs looks to finalise the recruitment rules for hiring over 38,000 teachers and support staff for 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools across the country, the jobs of around 4,000 existing teachers are hanging by a thread as the Union government has calculated the staff requirement without considering those already working in the schools.
While the Union government has a target of finishing a total of 740 such schools by 2025-26, currently, just 401 of them are functional and are facing a significant teacher shortage. At these schools, there are nearly 4,000 teaching staff, which include principals, postgraduate teachers, and trained graduate teachers.
According to guidelines issued by the National Education Society for Tribal Students (NESTS), each school is meant to have at least 26 teaching staff, translating to 10,426 teaching staff for 401 schools.
Problem of shortage
To address the teacher shortage, which was being caused in part by the variation in recruitment rules across the States and Union Territories, the Union government decided to directly start recruiting teachers for these schools in 2022. The announcement was made by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech.
However, according to statements submitted before a Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Union government’s calculation for the staff requirement did not consider the existing teachers at the functional schools. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs had told the House panel that it had arrived at the 38,000 figure based on the NESTS guidelines, which prescribe 52 staffers for each of the 740 schools (26 teaching staff and 26 non-teaching staff).
Senior Ministry officials said that with this recruitment set to start by the next fiscal year, the most at risk would be contractual teachers, who make up over 58% of the current teaching staff. They would be followed by those on deputation from the respective State governments, who account for a little over 12% of existing teachers.
The teachers on deputation said that they did not have much to lose as they could just go back to the State Education Department and get posted to government schools. But guest teachers and those on contract have said they are worried about their positions and wondered if they will get priority during the fresh round of recruitment.
“We are also not sure what will happen to the ones who were permanently appointed by following the old recruitment rules. These teachers were hired by following all rules and the government might have to consider absorbing them into the new recruits,” a senior Ministry official said, adding that those who are let go will have a chance to apply under the new recruitment rules.
The new recruitment rules will standardise educational qualifications for applying to teaching positions across these schools, prescribe reservation rules as per the Union government’s regulations (including for EWS), and set out age bars for all available positions.
According to previous evaluations of the teachers at the schools, the lack of standardised recruitment across states had led to large variations in the quality of education and in pay-scales. Also, as States were hiring a large number of teachers on contract, reservation policies were not strictly followed.
The Union government has said that it intends to recruit around 8,000 to 10,000 staffers every year for the next three years to achieve its target. A senior NESTS official said that the recruitment rules are expected to be finalised by the end of March along with the recruitment agency that will conduct the hiring.
The official added that these details would be finalised in a governing body meeting, expected to be held this month.