Truant Teachers Cut Class

Jharkhand has the highest rate of teacher absenteeism in the country. According to a 2006 national study conducted by UNICEF, 42 percent of Jharkhand school teachers are wholly absent from the classroom on any given day. This rate is high relative to the national average of 25 percent and bleak when compared with states such as Maharashtra, whose rate fell to 14 percent. Teacher absenteeism is a tremendous issue facing the central government’s Right to Education Act (RTE). The act specifies schools must be open for seven hours per day. Teacher must be present to staff these schools. With 25 percent of teachers absent nationally on any given day and an average teacher-student ration of 1:42, the challenge to realize even the most basic RTE goals—having schools open and staffed—becomes apparent. As we see in Mukesh’s video, teachers express significant apathy when confronted with this issue and their role in it. In the video, Mukesh informs the teaching staff this video report will be viewed both nationally and internationally; their comments and attitudes will be openly available to the world. Yet they show no regret or remorse for their behavior. (Further evidence of this can be viewed in Mukesh’s previous video report, Pay Bribe, Take Education, which explores corruption/bribery amongst Jharkhand teaching staff.) The teachers featured in Mukesh’s report do not hesitate in confessing their attitudes towards absenteeism. They do not fear the consequences of this action because teacher absenteeism and corruption go largely unchecked across the country. A 2003 World Bank study found only 1 in 3000 teachers were dismissed due to repetitive absences. The arrogance we see in this film reflects this reality. India’s Right to Education Act outlines provisions to invest in advanced training and support for teachers. But will this be enough to curb this deeply-embedded mindset?
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