Thiruvananthapuram: More than 300 government school teachers in Kerala - the state with the highest literacy rate -- have not been paid for five months. And with harvest festival Onam coming, they are desperate for money.
- The schools located in Kerala's tribal Regions cater to 5,000 children
- "Give us the lowest possible job," say the teachers
- Government says funds for salary have not been sanctioned
The 326 schools - single teacher institutions - are located in the state's tribal areas that are often remote. Together, they reach out to nearly 5,000 children.
Though the money is not forthcoming, the government has doubled their salaries -- from Rs 5000 to Rs 10,000.
"Let the government shut these schools and give us the lowest possible job. A low salary is acceptable, but all we need is a steady source of income," said Praveeta, one of the teachers.
Many like her want to quit. Most have to work elsewhere to keep households running.
Like 43-year-old Sukumaran TC, who works as a shop assistant after school hours. On his off days, he is an agricultural labourer. His wife has taken up a job at a neighbourhood shop to support the family, which includes an ailing mother and three children.
"On weekends I work in someone's field and I get around Rs 400. After school hours, I work in shops. I have bank loans and have borrowed from people. How will we pay them off?" said Sukumaran, who lives in Wayanad, 450 km away from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Praveeta, who has been teaching for last 15 years, takes in sewing to run the household.
The government says the hold-up is because funds for the teachers' salaries have not been sanctioned.
KV Mohankumar, Director of Public Instructions, told NDTV: "We are very serious about single-teacher schools and discussions are on. We are waiting for administrative sanction for the funds and will try our best to disburse salaries before Onam."