Can you imagine a person living in an area where he or she does not receive clean water, food, proper medical facilities, housing facilities or even safety in living? Recently, I was able to visit this area and I was able to visit many schools, where I was even able to stay with these teachers for many days. The days when I stayed with them were the most amazing days of my life because I was able to really understand the meaning of companionship and hospitality. These teachers were very caring and understanding. But for me, the most disturbing aspect was that even though these teachers were caring, I realised that they face many challenges being in this isolated area. This is the condition of many teachers living in Sheo and the many areas near to it. Sheo is an area in Barmer district, which is a dark zone in the western part of Rajasthan. In this district, many teachers are being transferred from other districts in Rajasthan. You can come across this area, on the way to Jaisalmer from Barmer city. All the schools that I visited were government schools where different grades are taught and therefore identified as primary, upper primary, secondary and senior secondary. These challenges are faced by most of the teachers in this area. Now, let’s look at the challenges.
Lack of Proper Medical Facilities
The biggest challenge they face is lack of proper medical facilities. In this area, there are many schools which are located in distant locations where they are completely isolated from the city and also the nearest block headquarters. In these isolated areas, there are no transport facilities such as bus. If they have to go to the nearest hospital, then they have to travel more than 10 kms and they can only travel if they have a vehicle of their own. Now imagine, if these teachers face a medical issue, what do you think they would do? They have to see if there is another person available and then travel all the way to the hospital. This for sure is no easy task. It is easy to imagine it and tell the solutions but when you are there and experiencing this issue, then you would truly understand these challenges.
Lack of Clean Water
I am not saying that they do not have any water to drink. But what I am telling is that they do not have enough water to drink. Many times, these teachers depend on getting drinking water from the city which is again more than 10 kms in distance. These teachers have to wait for a vehicle to come for providing drinking water in huge bottles. Imagine, if these vehicles do not come on time, then how would these teachers even live without drinking water? There are times when these teachers depend on other teachers, who live in the city to bring drinking water in bottles for them. In the field, there was a teacher who lives in the border side towards Pakistan, who told me that they do not have any access to clean drinking water and many times, they have to walk to a pond and collect water from there. It is just crazy for me to even imagine that they do not have much access to clean drinking water, which is a basic necessity for anyone and everyone.
No Housing Facilities
Many of the teachers do not have any housing facilities and they stay in the schools itself. They stay in the schools itself!! These teachers live in the classrooms, cook in the Mid Day Meal room and use the school toilets. Now you might be wondering, at least they are receiving free housing facilities. But the question is, will you live like that for many years?! For an adventure it is fun, but they live in the school, where nearby there are no shops or any hospitals and are completely isolated in many ways. For instance, there is a single teacher school, where the teacher could not find any accommodation in the village and had to stay in the city itself. But the problem was that he did not have any transportation of his own for years and had to travel to the school by asking truck drivers, if they could drop him near to the school or not. This is one of the conditions which these teachers face. Many of the teachers do not or are not able to bring their families to this place because they, themselves are not able to find housing facilities and another issue is that there is an issue of safety for many of the female teachers. Another reason for them to not able to find a housing facility is because of caste or their religion.
Caste of the Teacher Matters
If the teacher is of a caste which is a problem for other teachers or with community members, then it can create the problem of isolation for the teacher. The teacher will not be able to create a relation with them and this can cause demotivation and frustration. The teacher’s caste matters in building relations with the community members, if their support is required for improving the school. In relation to caste, gender also matters. Women face more issues in these areas compared to the male teachers. Women face issues in terms of safety in regards to finding accommodation as well as transport. Many times, what I was able to observe was that female teachers were able to find transportation in the main roads but once they reach their stops, then they still have to walk around 1 km in narrow roads to reach their schools. This is a huge concern of their safety.
Now I know teachers in many other places also face these kind of challenges or maybe more. Some may argue that these teachers have to live with these challenges and that is expected of them, if they want to work as teachers. My question is, “How can you expect a teacher to teach in schools with high motivation when they do not even receive any basic facility for their necessities?” Atleast, these teachers have to receive an affirmation, guidance or even recognition for the work they do. If they do not, then do not expect these teachers to have high or any motivation in the work they do. They will just do their work because it is their work and not because they want to do it. It is just controlling them and not commitment. I am not saying that all the teachers are demotivated at work but most of them are. It is complete frustration. In the end, it is always the students who face the repercussions.
Elwin Varughese is pursuing his Masters from Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.