THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the Government speaks fondly about the need to give a new orientation to higher education, academic work in most government colleges is getting hampered on account of shortage of teaching staff.
In the reckoning of the Association of Kerala Government College Teachers (AKGCT), there are as many as 553 vacancies of college lecturers in the State today and the number would go up to 700 in 39 Government colleges alone once around 150 teachers retire from service in March. The shortfall in lecturers is being made up with guest lecturers, leading to an exploitative arrangement with little benefit to either the teaching community or the students, it says. According to AKGCT general secretary J. Prasad, the guest lecturer system had resulted in differential wages for teachers who do the same work. Most of the youngsters working as guest lecturers are highly qualified persons with Ph.D. in their respective subject areas. They are being paid only a pittance. The AKGCT had launched an indefinite fast on August 6, 2003, to press for lifting the recruitment freeze in Government colleges. P.K. Kunhalikutty who was in charge of the Education portfolio then had promised the joint action council that the recruitment ban would be lifted. Although the promise was kept to a certain extent, it was not followed up seriously and the guest lecturer system is proving to be a convenient excuse for the Government for not acting in the matter, he said.
Mr. Prasad said that not a single lecturer vacancy had been created for the 20 courses sanctioned in 2003 and that in the colleges in north Malabar, only 30 per cent of the teachers were on regular employment. Since they have to do examination work of both government and aided colleges, they were in no position to serve the interests of the students. This would only help those wishing to further privatise the education system, he said