New Delhi: “Lecture presentations and supplementary readings in PDF form were sent to the Department of History common database for official correspondence. A copy of the resources was also e-mailed to the Teacher-in-Charge, select student representatives for convenient access of the students. I was also available over a dedicated class WhatsApp group on the concerned paper during lecture timings to address student-related queries and clarifications on the circulated lecture proceedings.” Guest faculty in Delhi University Abhinava Goswami updated a file adding this information to produce before the administration as e-evidence of taking a class amid the Covid-19 lockdown. He has added many more details to provide as proof of online lectures for the month.
Goswami received his salary cheque for February on March 31. Delays in pay are routine for many guest teachers, but with a shift towards online education, a large section of them, including Goswami, is unsure “how their online work will translate into payment of salaries”. Other permanent teachers and most of the ad-hoc faculties got salaries credited into their accounts. The guest lecturers are kept waiting.
Earlier, payments were made to guest teachers on the basis of attendance in classrooms; it was collated and processed from the office of the authority. Billing was done previously as well, which was physical evidence. But with the lockdown imposed, they have to “produce e-footprints” for the payment of salaries.
Dazed and confused
Goswami said that with the lockdown during the novel coronavirus outbreak, he is seeing the “professional side of social distancing”. As a guest teacher, which is large chunk of the teaching strength in Delhi University, with most of them in the School of Open Learning and Non Collegiate Women's Education Board (NCWEB), there is not much clarity on how they will be reimbursed on time. “This is something that's not planned properly. The university wants guest lecturers to be religiously available during class hours and make sure teaching is not compromised. There is no clear idea as to how such online method of teaching will translate into timely payment,” he said.
Normally, he would fill the form on attendance and a tally would be sent to the principal which was processed as salary. “The permanent, ad-hoc teachers are getting fixed sums, but many like us have to maintain online records on the lectures, give details of class hours, portion of syllabus covered, correspond with faculty, submit e-resources that can be recorded for the online classes. There is no coherence of looking into the problem of payment for guest lecturers. How will this translate into payment of salaries?” said Goswami.
A guest faculty at DU's Miranda House, who did not wish to be named, said it is not clear whether the salaries will be based on “classes or consolidated overall? Every college is dealing differently with their guest faculty. In Miranda, we don’t have a problem; in any case we upload our material weekly. But till we get the money, we don’t know what it will be based on,” she said.
Guest teacher payments require a lot of bureaucratic procedures before the actual receipt of the money by the person intended. That's why the exercise is complex and tedious, often leading to frustration for the employee. Furthermore, amid the lockdown, when offices are functioning sluggishly, the payments process has become more protracted.
"Every college is dealing with this situation differently. In Hindu College, the word of the TIC (teacher-in-charge) is being counted. Many of the guest lecturers might not be this lucky,” said a faculty at the college on condition of anonymity.
Almost 2,000 guest teachers work at the university's Non Collegiate Women's Education Board (NCWEB) and School of Open Learning. Dr Geeta Bhatt, director of the NCWEB where 1,150 of these faculties teach, said, “There will be natural justice for all those teaching online and conducting classes by logging in. If you have taken classes online, produce certification for it. There are e-classroom links created and shared with the guest teachers. Google Classroom, Zoom will have e-footprints which will be taken into account,” she sad, adding that lectures shared on WhatsApp or PDFs emailed “cannot be considered actual classes; one should have logged in to interact with the class for a 50-minute lecture”.
“Consider all on duty”
Around the time the lockdown began, the Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA) had sent a letter to the colleges, saying, “Guest teachers, who are engaged in colleges and departments, for teaching of regular courses, are also making themselves available through e-resources during their assigned teaching hours. Institutions should be instructed to use these records as classes delivered to be considered for payment. This is essential as it is also a matter of livelihood for this section of teachers.”
Rajib Ray, president of DUTA, is drafting a letter again for colleges to consider, underscoring that amid the unprecedented crisis institutional help needs to be provided to all sections.
Regarding payment to guest teachers, the association reminded the administration that an order of the ministry of labour and employment issued on March 20 and the department of personnel and training office memorandum dated March 25, followed by the university circular of March 28 and April 5 (in particular) said, “All employees have to be treated on duty. As instructed by the DU circular of 5th April 2020, the required procedure can be executed online through emails.”
The teachers' body requested colleges to make payments to guest teachers without further delay.