Pattem Venkata Subbaiah, 43, has 15 years of teaching experience. He is now selling bananas to meet the needs of his family.
Talking to The Lede, Subbaiah, who has two postgraduate degrees in political science and Telugu, says, “Due to lockdown I have lost my job. I have two kids aged six and five years. My elder son has a medical problem. I am suffering from kidney issues and am a diabetic. To manage my family, I started selling bananas.”
Subbaiah has been employed as a Telugu teacher in Narayana School, Nellore, for the past two years.
Due to the lockdown, schools were shut and teachers were asked to take online classes for the months of March, April and upto May 15, he says.
The management of the private school where he was employed, paid him 50% of his salary till April and told him to bring in at least six to seven candidates for admission for the next academic year in order to be paid for the next month. He was asked to continue the same practice post lockdown.
“Unfortunately, no parent allowed us to their homes for counseling, fearing Coronavirus,” said Subbaiah.
“We have told the same to our management and said we are trying to get admissions. The management then told me to discontinue my service from May. Having no other option, I started selling bananas.”
Subbaiah says the school management told teachers that they would pay their May month salary only if they brought in admissions.
“Even my colleagues are facing the same problem. Out of fear of losing their job, a few of them created fake admissions by paying from their pockets,” he said.
“When I shared my problems with a friend, he said I better start my own business. He said bananas is the best business for me because it needs Rs 1000 investment and fetches me 200 daily,” said Subbaiah.
Subbaiah has loans to repay and is wondering how he will do it. Until the end of March he was able to run his household with the salary of Rs 16,780 that he got in hand.
He also has to repay a loan of Rs 3 lakh borrowed for his elder son’s medical treatment two years ago.
Luckily though, his former students, seeing his plight, decided to chip in and help.
“Seeing my present situation, 120 students whom I have taught in ninth and tenth class came forward to help me,” said a happy Subbaiah. “They gave me Rs 86,000. I am proud to have students like them. Students at this age who generally think of enjoyment have taken a great responsibility in helping me,” he added.
Talking to The Lede, K Ravi Verma, Assistant General Manager of Narayana School in Nellore said that Subbaiah was not terminated. “Since schools are not functioning, we have asked our teachers to resume their services in August. As there is no work from June to August we have decided not to pay the salaries for these months. In March we have paid 100% salary and in April 75%,” said Verma.
This though goes against the appeal made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to all companies and organisations to ensure that salaries are paid during the lockdown.
“I took the courage to speak about this so that at least my friends will benefit. I urge the government to support and help us in this situation,” says Subbaiah, the teacher-turned-vendor.