Educators or Exploiters?
The on-going Covid-19 pandemic seems to have punctured the overly-inflated
bubble of the ‘capitalist structure’ that exists in the form of a private
schooling system operating along purely commercial lines.
‘Why don’t you wear black shoes?’ I asked the student, ‘you always wear these dirty and torn ones.’
‘Sir, my father cannot afford new shoes. I have asked him many times but he ignores,’ the lanky and weak student replied to my question.
The student came from one of the areas located at outskirts of my city. It was a rare interaction. Never before had I encountered such an interaction in my teaching career. I started dangling between two annoying thoughts after my interaction: how can parents get their children enrolled in a school which charges more than 4000 rupees per month? If parents can afford a high fee, why can’t they buy a pair of new shoes for their children?
In a small city like Hub, the franchise of a well-known school was expected to have brought in an educational revolution. My interaction with the student happened just two months before the deadly virus started engulfing the countries of the world. Pakistan’s schooling systems sank into the depth of deadly effects of the virus in early March. The intensity of contagious disease forced the schools to go into hibernation like bears go for spending winters in polar region!
On a broader level, the pandemic had intensified the issue of ‘social security’. The worldwide lockdown turned to be a decisive economic battle for the masses in general and for poor and marginalised in particular. Likewise, the trickledown effects of economic problems were felt in the ‘brand’ school too. To measure the effects of pandemic on a specific aspect, it is observable that it has punctured the overly-inflated bubble of ‘capitalist structure’ whether it exists in shape of private schooling systems or a big firm!
Contrary to my expectation that the school would support the staff in difficult times, it had something perplexing in the planning box for the staff! In a quick move, downsizing was the first cajole fall upon the head of staff. Once leading the field in school, now I was sent packing for two months, for I taught ‘Pakistan Study’ and ‘Social Study’ and the management believed the subjects were not important to teach!
Interestingly, after two months, I was called under some strict conditions. Now I had to teach three days in a week and was suppose to be paid for the working days. The online experience was depressing. The burden increased twice more than conducting physical classes. We were bound to explain the lecture through videos and then teach it next day. Apart from the staff being exploited, the domestic workers, the four old-age women, suffered the most. The school decided to have only two domestic workers. They had to do a laborious work which was shared by the four before! They had already been receiving ‘peanuts’ and now had to face the effects of economic recession too!
Similarly, in June, the staff was ‘asked’ (not requested) to cooperate with school and the staff received half salaries with a guarantee that the backlog will be repaid once the situation improved.
Subsequently, in April 2020, the scheduled reopening of the schools started so did the hopes that staff will get repaid by the school. However, things went rather confusing. The staff was asked to wait further and would be paid as the situation gets normalized further.
Surprisingly, the client dealing—the head used the term to refer to students—kept growing as the staff was made to prepare notes (study packs) for the students to buy. Once again the hopes were high that the remaining amount of the staff would be repaid since the study packs were sold out to students and the staff would be having their share as they prepared it. However, it was appalling to hear that making study packs was merely the duty of staff!
I resigned two months ago. The reasons were multiple. My hectic research schedule and the exploitation had been the prime reasons to resign. Before resigning, completing notice period was the foremost condition put forward by the school management. I complied with the ‘order’. I have been sending them reminders for two months to pay my dues but my ‘immoral’ attitude for asking for the rights of staff has earned me much defamation. Therefore, to teach me a lesson, the school has decided to withhold my 8,500 rupees! Is it a big amount for the ‘brand’ school to pay? This is not a big deal! The parents of the lanky and weak student, whom I asked to wear black shoes, are still affording to pay the fee!