At Peak Of COVID-19 Crisis, Kashmir’s First Birla School Fired 20 Teachers

by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: The enthusiasm which saw the opening of the first franchise of reputed Birla Open Minds International School (BOMIS), in Kashmir valley, seems to be gone among parents and teachers.

Struggling to make a mark in Kashmir valley’s competitive educational sector, Birla School recently fired 20 teachers, leaving them helpless during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Located in south Kashmir’s Pampore town, BOMIS started its operations last year amid fan-fare and expectations, both by the parents of some 600 odd students and over 50 teachers.

But the journey turned out to be short-lived as Covid-19 shut schools across the world in March this year.

While most of the Kashmir valley based schools managed to engage both its staff and students through online classes and keep the show going, BOMIS downsized its staff by firing mostly female teachers.

The termination of services comes at a time when PM Modi, in his country-wide address, urged organisations not to fire their employees and treat them well amid pandemic.

One of the teachers wishing to be anonymous said: “They (school admin) said we were fired because our probation period of six months has expired.”

Hired in December 2019, the probation period of six-months expired in June 2020, but the teachers were fired in August 2020.

“Why were we forced to conduct online classes during July and August if we were on six months probation only? They cannot hire and fire at will, that too when we have no other alternative and nowhere else to go. This is not only cruel but selfish on school’s part,” said a female teacher whose salary helped her support a family of four.

Fired teachers said that the school compensated for their work during a pandemic but since July 2020 they are not paid any salary.

“The school terminated us without any prior notice,” said another female teacher who alleges that the termination was communicated verbally on the phone. “Where will I go now?” said the teacher helplessly. “Who will hire us in the middle of Coronavirus?”

Another teacher, who was tasked to upload lectures for students and send them online assignments, was fired without prior notice. The said teacher was paid only half of her salary in June, despite working full-time teaching online. “I know how I managed despite the slow internet and other crises. I put in my 100 percent. But see how the school treated me now,” she said amid tears.

Another teacher said even if salaries were withheld or given half, at least there was hope. “And now it is also gone.”

The repeated phone calls to the school Principal and administrator were unreciprocated.

GN Var President Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) said that he will inquire into reasons behind the teacher’s termination. The school cannot fire them right away,” he said.

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