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And now, fake teachers in Bihar: how can education be rescued?

N Kumar | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:16 IST

The order

  • The Patna High Court has instructed teachers holding fake degrees to resign by 8 July.
  • Those who do so will be forgiven.
  • Those who don\'t will be probed and, if guilty, sacked and prosecuted.

The effect

  • Teachers have been protesting for the last few months.
  • The state govt says 1,400 have resigned, while teachers\' associations claim it\'s 2,200.
  • The Nitish Kumar govt is not doing anything, since it fears a backlash in this year\'s state elections.

The state of school education in Bihar is in a mess. Till a month ago, all academic activities in numerous towns and villages of the state had been brought to a juddering halt by teachers' two-month long agitation.

About half-a-dozen teachers' organisations were busy politicking and, in the end, the government relented on some of their demands.

But now there is a new controversy raging - school teachers are resigning en masse. According to RK Mahajan, principal secretary of the education department, 1,400 teachers have quit their jobs till now.

However, it is difficult to ascertain the exact number, since Naveen Kumar, the newly-elected vice-president of the Teachers' Association, pegs this number at 2,200.

Court's ultimatum

This sequence of events has followed a recent verdict by the Patna High Court. A bench of Chief Justice L Narsimha Reddy and Justice Sudhir Singh has set an ultimatum for the teachers with fake degrees to resign by 8 July.

The bench has declared that those who resign would be forgiven, while those who don't will face a probe. An FIR will be lodged against the teachers found guilty after the investigation. They will be sacked and will have to return their salaries to the state exchequer.

The verdict came on a PIL filed by Ranjit Pandit, a social activist.

Naveen Kumar alleges it is an act of vendetta against the teachers who had agitated for a salary hike. However, there seems to be little substance in his claim.

Not a new issue

This is not the first time that the issue of teachers' fake degrees has come to light in Bihar.

The court had already directed the government to probe such teachers and act against them. The government responded by saying that it is a cumbersome task and may take 3-4 months.

The HC bench has said those fake degree-holders who resign would be forgiven, while others will face a probe

It assigned the task to eight officers of DSP rank and 30 inspector-level officers, through the Vigilance Department.

However, as things progressed at a snail's pace, the High Court had to intervene with this tough stricture.

Politics in the background

The state government has chosen to remain silent over the issue so far. Clearly, it wants to refrain from inviting trouble in this, an election year. CM Nitish Kumar knows that any stand on the issue would amount to 'cutting off the nose to spite the face'.

Many discredit his government for the current dilapidated state of school education in the state.

In fact, the background for the current impasse started building in 2005, just after Nitish took charge. His government decided to adopt a shortcut to meet the shortage of school teachers in the state.

It started the policy of 'give a certificate and get a job' for the recruitment of teachers in 2006. This resulted in a flood of fake degrees. Almost two lakh teachers were appointed, many of whom were undeserving of the job.

Soon, the effects became apparent and parents began to complain about the poor quality of education in government schools.

As the government drew flak, it sacked some of the fake degree-holding teachers in 2008. But this did not quell the resentment among the people.

On the other hand, the teachers began agitating for higher perks and permanent jobs.

An exam for teachers

To salvage the situation, the government conducted an eligibility examination for teachers in 2011.

The results of this examination were startling. Almost 8,000 permanent teachers failed it, whereas 98% of the teachers appointed under the Nitish government's initiative got through.

Nitish used the results to suggest that all the aspersions regarding the recruitment of teachers should be put to rest.

However, the argument did not cut much ice, either with the parents or with the teachers. The level of school education in the state continued to slip into the abyss. In the present scenario, too, the situation is unlikely to change.

The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.

First published: 6 July 2015, 6:52 IST
N Kumar @CatchNews

Is a freelance journalist based in Patna. He writes prolifically on politics, caste and economic reforms.