Unpaid Indian contract teachers protesting earlier this year 

The government of Maharashtra state in India is demanding that schools fill over 5,000 vacancies with volunteers, who will be used to teach sports and arts in high schools. 

Teachers are holding a protest outside the state government offices, demanding the withdrawal of the instruction. As the head of the arts teachers association put it: 'They want volunteers to teach students, then what is the use of our degrees? Why is government still offering arts teacher diploma? . . . what about the future of our profession? If the government wants overall development of a student, it should work hard on improving the quality of teachers.'

Meanwhile the head of the sports teachers association said: 'Being an expert in the field and teaching are two different things. Doesn’t our experience in teaching, assessing the students count? By taking this step, the government is killing the aspirations of potential teachers.'

The government's move was ostensibly prompted by the Right To Education (RTE) act, which was heralded by many as a step towards education for all in India. It is in fact highly problematic, however, and disputed by both education activists and teachers' leaders, not least because it entrenches private education in the school system, in contravention of the constitutional entitlement of children to free education at all stages.

This latest move by the Maharashtra state government, which includes Mumbai, the most populous city in India, comes only a short time after it offered up its entire public schools stock to private actors, NGOs, religious groups and companies. It is if anything even worse than the widespread use of temporary contracts, where teachers languish for years with no job security, no pension rights and a fraction of permanent teachers' pay.

Once again an Indian state government is paying lip service to public education while sytematically denigrating and undervaluing the teaching profession. Maharashtra teachers say that they are wearing black armbands in protest and if the plans are not withdrawn, they will strike after the upcoming Diwali break.