Discriminatory Practices In Schools : Bindu Thapa & Sangita Pandey
Sarita GC has been teaching at Himal Boarding School of Sainamaina municipality for almost a decade. From the very beginning, Sarita, a graduate, has been teaching nursery and upper kindergarten children. However, her colleague Mausam Thapa, a male teacher, who is studying at the Bachelor's level, teaches students at the lower secondary level. He has been in the teaching profession for just two years. In terms of experience and academic qualification, Sarita deserves to teach in the higher classes, but the school administration has not allowed her to do so.
I can teach at the lower secondary and secondary level. I am qualified for that, but I am not recognised. Here even if women are more qualified than men, the former are assigned the lower grades for teaching," said Sarita.
Lower grades, lower pay
Those who teach in the lower grades receive lower pay, but they need to work harder. "The female teachers have to work harder than the male teachers, but they are paid less. We have been discriminated against in favour of men," she added.
Even those schools with very good SLC results and are known for their management in the district have been discriminating against female teachers. Everest Boarding School located at Butwal, Sukhkhanagar is one such school. Including LB Thapa, who has only completed his I.Sc., many other male teachers teach students at the lower secondary level. But more than a dozen female teachers like Sharada Sharma, who holds a Bachelor's degree, teach students in the lower grades at the primary level.
Female teachers complain that they have been discriminated on the basis of gender and that their academic qualification and teaching competence are not considered. The school management claims that it has been assigning teachers as per the needs of the school.
Most private schools say that learning is easier when female teachers are assigned to the pre-primary and primary levels, and they have been assigning female teachers accordingly. This has forced female teachers with higher academic qualifications to teach the lower grades. The female teachers say that the schools pay them on the basis of the classes they teach and not on the basis of their qualification and experience.
They also say that schools prefer to assign female teachers to the lower grades as the latter often go on maternity leave. "The qualification and experience of the female teacher do not count. In most private schools, female teachers are not allowed to teach in the higher grades despite their experience and qualification," said Krishna Thapa, a teacher at Summit Boarding School.
It is a common practice in the developed countries to assign teachers with higher qualification to the lower grades, but they are offered better pay compared to those who teach the higher classes. In Nepal, the higher the qualification the higher the grade for the male teachers. In the case of women, irrespective of their qualification they are assigned lower grades and lower pay as well. That's why the female teachers with higher qualification are disadvantaged.
It is widely acknowledged that female teachers can teach children of the lower grades better compared to their male counterparts. That's why schools not only prefer but are also required to hire female teachers to teach in the lower grades. But female teachers argue that if they possess higher qualification and yet have to teach in the lower grades, they should be paid at par with the male teachers.
Mamata Pandey, a teacher at Paschimanchal Boarding School in Bhairahawa, says, "Either qualified women teachers should also be given the opportunity to teach in the higher classes like their counterparts, or if they are required to teach in the lower grades, they should be paid on the basis of their qualification and competence."
The demand for equal pay for equal work is being raised in every sector. But most of the private schools in Rupandehi district in west Nepal are discriminating against the women in pay. Small private schools are found to be more discriminatory on this matter. However, female teachers cannot openly speak against such discrimination. A female teacher of Prabhat Boarding School says, "Male teachers of the same level draw more salary than the females. We have raised this issue time and again at meetings, but we fear losing our job f the issue is made public."
Female teachers are also deprived of exercising their right to maternity leave. The existing law allows two months' paid maternity leave. But most of the private schools provide just a month, while some provide two extra weeks paid leave. And there is almost no facility for breastfeeding and flexi time for the lactating mothers. This has forced many female teachers to quit their job.
Usha Rawal, Chief of the Women and Children Office, Rupandehi, says that they have been demanding facilities for the lactating women teachers. She also said that they had planned protest programmes against the discrimination between male and female teachers.
Lal Hari Pandey, vice chair of the Private and Boarding Schools' Organisation of Nepal (PABSON) Rupandehi, however, has a different opinion. He said that female teachers were reluctant to teach in the higher grades when they were given the opportunity. According to him, it is difficult to control the students in the higher classes and teachers have to be well-prepared, for which one has to work even at home. As female teachers can teach in a more affectionate manner, even the government has made a provision for female teachers to teach in the early grades. And the private schools have also been following the practice, he added.
No formal complaint
The District Education Office (DEO) is another agency for handling complaints of the teachers. The officials at the DEO, Rupandehi admit that despite their higher qualification, female teachers are assigned to teach in the lower grades and are paid less than the male teachers holding similar qualification, if not lower. They say that since they have not received any formal complaint regarding the discrimination in assignment and pay, the office has not taken any measures to resolve the problem.
Sthaneshwar Jnawali, undersecretary at the DEO says, "As the salary of the teachers of the primary level is low and most female teachers have been assigned to the lower grades, they might have faced problems, but they need to inform us formally so that the problem could be solved."
-- Sancharika Feature Service