Amid a week-long strike that has affected education in 56,000 elementary schools across Odisha, the state government directed 1.30 lakh primary teachers to join their duties on Thursday. The teachers, who have been on strike since September 8, are demanding the abolition of the contractual appointment system, a hike in grade pay, and the restoration of the old pension scheme.
In a letter addressed to district and block education officers, the director of elementary education stated that most of the striking teachers are staging sit-ins (“dharnas”) in front of Block Education Officer (BEO) offices without obtaining permission from relevant authorities. The letter described such actions as “gross misconduct.”
The director also emphasized the importance of fulfilling the academic calendar, which requires 220 working days in an academic year. If the normal working days are not met due to the strike, the lost time must be made up later, the letter said.
To address the teachers’ concerns, the government has formed a sub-committee led by the director of elementary education. The committee will discuss the issues with the teachers’ association and then recommend its findings to an inter-ministerial committee for a final decision.
Despite the government’s actions, the striking teachers are not backing down. Jyoti Ranjan Mishra, the coordinator of All Utkal Primary Teachers’ Federation, said, “This letter indicates that the government finally wakes up. We don’t care about such warning letters from the government. We will continue our protest until the government does not accept our demands.”
Education officers have been instructed to inform teacher associations at the district and block levels about the urgent need to call off their strike. The government stresses that the ongoing strike is depriving students of their right to education.
The standoff between the government and the primary teachers shows no sign of ending soon. As both sides hold their ground, the ones most affected are the students, who are missing out on their education. With neither party willing to relent, the educational landscape in Odisha remains uncertain.