On November 30 this year, the former Chief Education Officer (CEO) Baramulla attained superannuation from his service. It was a routine matter for any government officer.
Ideally, when any officer retires from his services, his chair becomes vacant for a day or two and is filled by his successor.
But the retirement of CEO Baramulla was full of surprises because his retirement rendered four crucial posts vacant, all at once.
Besides the charge of CEO Baramulla, he was manning the post of CEO Bandipora, Principal District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) Sopore and Principal DIET Bandipora simultaneously.
In view of these facts, one can imagine how overburdened the officer was during the fag end of his service tenure. Humanly it is only possible to run one post by an individual, but the retired officer under discussion was handling four positions simultaneously.
Now that he has retired from the post, all these crucial positions are vacant. He was not the only officer who was overburdened by the department; the situation in other districts is the same.
Here are some examples. CEO KUpwara is manning the post of principal DIET Kupwara as his additional assignment and CEO Ganderbal is manning the post of CEO Srinagar as his additional charge.
The purpose of mentioning the additional assignments of officers is not to put the blame on their shoulders. The responsibility lies with the people at the helm of affairs to run the department smoothly and mandatorily adopt one-person one-post policy to run the academic as well as administrative matters in a smooth manner.
This is not the first time that the department has been left to function on crutches as the key positions remain vacant. The School Education Department (SED) has a long history of poor governance under which promotions, service benefits, confirmation of employees is delayed for one or the other reasons.
The promotions and the confirmations of the services has become such a complicated issue in the department that many employees retired over a decade ago while waiting for their confirmation. Some of them even passed away.
Presently, the school education department has been left on crutches as five positions of CEO and five posts of DIET Principal are lying vacant in the Kashmir Valley. Also, around 10 education zones are without permanent Zonal Education Officers (ZEOs) in Kashmir. The vacant positions of ZEOs are manned by other equivalent rank officers in the department.
Besides administrative posts, the situation is the same in terms of academics as around 1700 posts of Lecturers are vacant in the department. The dearth of lecturers in higher secondary schools has taken a toll on the quality of education in primary and middle schools .
To overcome the dearth of lecturers (subject-specific teachers) the department shifted teachers, having postgraduate degrees and higher qualification, from primary and middle schools and adjusted them in high and higher secondary schools. The move created crises in the elementary schools which have been rendered teacher deficient.
The department should either fill the vacant positions of lecturers through direct recruitment or by means of promotions whatever seems feasible for the department. But the lethargic approach of the authorities has badly affected the functioning at grass root level.
Same holds true for the posts of Higher Secondary Principals which are lying vacant from years together.
All the mess has been created due to delay in timely promotions and fulfilling other formalities by the department.
Amid these scenarios the academic and administrative functioning in the department at ground level has been badly hit.
The department has been caught up in official wrangles as it has miserably failed to resolve the issues pertaining to the promotions of employees from the post of teachers to CEO level.
Amid this, adhocism is galore in the department which has taken a toll in normal conduct of work in educational institutions as well as the offices.
Now coming to the point, over the years the SED has claimed to switch to online mode wherein the data of all employees of the department will be available with a click of a button.
But the current situation of the department has exposed the departmental claims.
Recently when four posts were left vacant due to retirement of one officer, it means that no data is being maintained by the department under which it can make prior plans of posting of officers to fill the positions which remain vacant due to retirement of outgoing officers.
The department has been beating the drums of the transformation in terms of academics and administration but the actual situation depicts the grim picture.
There seems to be no strategy adopted by the department in all these years where all the vacant positions both in the administrative and academic sector are filled as per the requirement to run the department smoothly.
The department has already kept key positions vacant which include Chairman JK Board of School Education, Director JK SCERT and Chairman Fee Fixation and Regulation committee (FFRC).
All these positions are lying vacant when the department is in the initial stage of the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 and owing to this there should be clear policy with the department to run its offices and the educational institutions. otherwise transformation and bringing reforms will be a distant dream in the department.
The department should prepare, in advance, the data of all employees so that no key positions are left vacant and which will also do away with the adhocism in the department.
The SED should also put all efforts to do away with the official wrangles which result in delayed promotions.
Among other priorities, the SED claims to maintain the seniority in 37 subjects of Post Graduate Teachers, Masters for placement as lectures.
It also claims that the seniority of principals, senior lecturers, lecturers, Deputy CEOs, CEOs and ZEOs is also maintained separately.
But given the ground situation, it seems that the policy document has remained confined to the papers only as no immediate decisions are taken by the department in case of promotions which paves way for the adhocism in the offices.
The impending winter vacation in schools across Kashmir is an opportunity for the School Education Department to chalk out a strategy on filling up all vacant positions on fast-track basis and do away with adhocism which is impairing the functioning of schools.
It goes without saying that adhocism is highly detrimental to achieve the NEP-2020 objectives which require clear focus of academic officers which, amid prevailing adhocism, cannot be a reality.
The multi-charge syndrome in the department has to be done away with for better output and results in schools across Kashmir. Hope the authorities shun the lackadaisical attitude to address this serious issue.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.