Delhi: Open Letter to DUTA President regarding SOL teachers

February 26, 2016

To,
The President
Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA)
University of Delhi
Dated: 22.02.2016

Dear Madam,

We, as students, respect you greatly as a person and as a teacher, and have always felt that you reflect extremely democratic values and work ethic. It is with immense hope and expectation that we write to you about two grave issues relating to Delhi University’s (DU’s) teachers. Considering your impeccable record as a concerned teacher and as a democratic rights activist, we feel that you too will agree that the following issues warrant your immediate attention.

The two issues we wish to place before you and the DUTA is the manner in which a section of teachers are conducting themselves in the School of Open Learning (SOL) study centres, and the most recent case of physical assault on a student by a DU teacher at Satyawati College (SOL) centre.

You are aware of the shameful attack on a student activist on Sunday, 21st February 2016 at Satyawati College. The teacher slapped the student and even confined the student in the staff room, where he and his colleagues further intimidated and roughed up the student. This was a cowardly attack that followed a confrontation between the teacher and the BA (Prog.) second year SOL students, who were demanding an explanation about why he continuously reported late for class. As you are aware madam, SOL centres have repeatedly witnessed students complaining about the lack of adequate classes, high absenteeism among the teachers, as well as poor/incomplete teaching and delayed examination results. In this case, the ‘crime’ committed by the students and the concerned student activist was that they dared to question the lax and unethical functioning of their teacher.

The incident is not one of its kind, which brings us to the general issue at stake here. It is a well-known fact that in DU’s SOL there is little transparency about the appointment of teachers in study centres, and there is little check on their fulfillment of duties as SOL teachers. Not only is the qualification of a sizeable number of SOL teachers questionable, but the rampant absenteeism, late reporting and general lack of work ethics among them is a matter of grave concern that needs to be addressed within the teaching community. Many of these teachers are carrying their class, caste and gender bias into the classroom, which alone can explain the pathetic experience of SOL students across various study centres.

Given the general attitude of neglect prevalent among SOL authorities and successive Vice Chancellors of DU, it is not surprising that several lumpen elements, unqualified and even sexist persons are employed in SOL study centres as teachers. Apart from just not showing up, signing in the attendance register although not taking class, or simply waltzing into class towards the end of the period, a section of SOL teachers are also known to treat the classroom as their personal fiefdom. Cheap comments passed at women SOL students is not uncommon. Neither is it uncommon to find a number of teachers wasting lecture time discussing matters not at all connected to the given syllabus. Some even prevent students from entering the classroom allegedly due to the lack of space, and even dare to pass derogatory comments regarding the caste and religious affiliations of students. Often SOL students have shared experiences of being roughed up, yelled at, etc. on a regular basis and in a manner which reflects nothing but a goon mentality in the teachers.

Madam, the concerns raised are genuine and reflect the deep concerns of the most marginalized section of DU students. Given the general apathy among the DU authorities when it comes to SOL’s functioning, we feel that the issue of poor work ethics and hooliganism of a certain section of SOL teachers should be raised by none other than the leading body of DU teachers, i.e. the DUTA. Furthermore, considering that SOL comprises of the poorest of the poor students, the responsibility of protecting their rights and enabling their studies lies to a large extent with the teaching community. We press for your personal intervention in this matter also because we know you are well aware that DUTA can hardly afford to stand for a teachers’ movement which is restricted and isolated, in that teachers wage struggles and raise demands for themselves, and not demands for change in the larger functioning of higher education and society at large. As stakeholders in higher education and as educated people to whom society, especially, the youth look up to, can the leading teachers’ body remain quiet about the maligning of the teaching profession?

At a time when the onslaught of neoliberal policies is ever growing and ‘reforms’ have hit the education sector badly, the teachers’ movement has consciously drawn on the support from the students’ movement and students’ organizations. Given this scenario, and the fact that a teachers’ movement fought in an isolated vein can hardly hope to garner support from the larger public, it is essential for the leading teachers’ body to take an assertive stand against erring teachers who are maligning the teaching profession and its public image. Checking the conduct of teachers and pointing out authoritarian and hooligan behaviour among erring teachers is an important measure that will strengthen the public image of the teaching community, in addition to facilitate proper work ethics across the larger body of teachers.

We believe that teachers and activists like you know the importance of building a movement of teachers and students that continuously fights for equal education for all and for a new, just society – a society that you and we, both, can truly cherish.

We thus request you to condemn the 21st February assault on a student at Satyawati College and to reprimand the accused teacher. We also request that in your capacity as DUTA president, trends of absenteeism, late reporting, harassment of SOL students, etc., which prevail among several teachers of SOL, are effectively highlighted, condemned, and thereby, kept in check.

Rohit Singh,

SOL Student,

On behalf of Krantikari Yuva Sangathan(KYS).