Peshawar: Women private school teachers of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) face gender discrimination in wages at the hands of school owners. These teachers, while working to break the gender discrimination among our future generations, are victims of discrimination themselves. In contrast to the male teachers of private schools in KP female teachers get lesser wages for the same workload.
In the 21st century, teachers of private schools receive less salary despite the fact that they are skilled workers. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minimum wages Act, 2013 (section 9), meant for unskilled workers, has been fixed at Rs.15000 but that doesn’t promise an improvement for private schools and the amounts fixed by employers for skilled workers dwindle on and below the minimum wages. The absence of a monitoring system ensures profits for the private school owners at the cost of teachers’ misery. According to a rough estimate, 70 per cent of the private schools teachers are paid an average minimum Rs.3000 to Rs.15000 with no such extra perks. The elite schools offer handsome salary packages, ranging from Rs.15000 to Rs.50000. However, in very rare semi government schools, teachers are paid up to 120000 rupees for a double shift (morning and evening).
Sources from private schools shared that all of the private schools raise students’ school fees annually but don’t commit to the same in case of its teaching staff. In contrast, public school employers pay teachers handsome wages and benefits without any gender discrimination. When contacted, a private school owner admitted that it’s a common practice that salaries for Peshawar’s private school teachers vary according to the gender.
Private schools charge student fees for summer ahead of the vacations but some private schools try to avoid paying their teachers during these holidays and sources have confirmed that this could be the reason some teachers are fired as summer arrives. As the June vacations draw near, the local government should take this issue into consideration. Some amendment in education and labor policies for private institution is required to alleviate such instances and to make private schools adhere to ethical practices and not run schools only like profitable business initiatives in KP.
In 2010 ANP government, the first draft by education department was submitted for regularizing private schools in KP. However, it lacked action as no initiative was taken to ensure accountabilities and proceeding against private schools in the light of the regulatory draft. Sources that do not want their identities to be revealed fearing backlash alleged that a lack of initiative to the education draft could be attributed to those lawmakers with their shares in private schools.
An annual report of KP Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) in year 2014-15 stated that total number of private schools in KP is 6743, scattered across different districts of KP, however most of the private schools are located in Peshawar district. Furthermore, the official data of education department states that total number of enrolment in these private school is 1.8 million. The total number of teachers is 85325 out of which female teacher are 44466 and male teachers estimated at 40859. Whereas, there are 27506 public schools in KP are and their overall enrollment is 4.2 million. The total number of sanctioned posts of teachers in public schools is 143399 out of which 92243 are male and 51156 are female teachers.
One private school principal anonymously told Truth Tracker that while men and women teachers serve in the same manner but regulation of an egalitarian remuneration seems an uphill task for the private school sector. Other than wages, the issue of terminations have been seen as unfair by many a teachers. Sources from the teachers deem terminations mostly as arbitrary decisions and claim that demanding their rights, including those of a salary raise, can place them at risk for losing their jobs. Teachers would like their contract to be protected for one whole academic year. The clauses of termination of job at a notice should be abolished. Usually private school owners have their teachers agree to another clause in their job contract that they cannot take their grievances to the labour department.
A very small percentage of private schools in KP have the policy to bound teachers for one session at least, but even these institutions fire teachers and attain substitutes to avoid such annual increase in their salaries. One private school teacher anonymously divulged that while reasoning with the principal about a serious issue the principal simply responded, “please do not come to school from tomorrow.” Moreover, sources from the women teacher added that in some of private schools male principle smoking in front of their students and the school principals resort to harsh and abusive language scaring students not to divulge any of the goings on to their parents for fear of reprimand.
When law enforcement officials were asked about these issues one local anonymously replied that the evidence to such events aren’t strong and police usually avoids raids on schools because of safety concerns and that of instilling fear in the young students.
The department of Labour is known to actively engage with public complaints about minimum wages. They are even known to monitor business districts and commercial markets to ensure that business helpers are paid the minimum. But in the case for private schools, they say that the same rules are not applicable.
Surprisingly, further investigation by Truth tracker revealed that the labor department, indeed, has a law for the private school issues. The law was initially launched during the ANP government but in the same time when new governing body came into action, they received a notification that the private institutions minimum wages sections be removed from the law. The notification was issued bypassing the provincial assembly. Legally, no changes can be made to the department of labour laws without asking provincial assembly to discuss and authorize it.
Truth Tracker further confirmed with inside sources from the labour department that some parties from within the labour department have file petition against these amendments in the Peshawar High court with aim to reclaim the private educational institutions. The court case is still under process. Minister Elementary and Secondary Education KP, Muhammad Atif, said,” it is in our priority to regularize private schools by the education department very soon.”
While the litigation continues, the lack of initiative by KP’s local government clearly indicates that it is clearly in no mood to establish such a regulatory system to regularize private schools and has failed to address issues of student fees and low and unequal salaries of teachers.