Interrogating What Reproduces a Teacher: A Study of the Working Lives of Teachers in Birgaon, Raipur

Shreya Khemani, Jharna Sahu, Maya Yadav, Triveni Sahu  | 2023


This study, situated in an industrial working-class neighbourhood in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, aims to look at what sustains and reproduces an elementary school teacher in low-fee private schools. Within a highly stratified system of education such as ours (NCERT 2005), both at the level of school and teacher education itself, as well as in the context of a highly stratified society—where the imagination and reality of ‘a teacher’ is informed as much by a historical domination of teaching by specific caste groups as it is by a contemporary reality in which the bulk of the teachers in schools across the country are women (UDISE+ 2019-20)—how do we understand the working lives of teachers and the work of teaching? This study thinks through this question by inquiring into the labouring lives of teachers in our fieldsite—centring tensions between productive and unproductive labour and paid and unpaid work. The need for this study emerged from our own location and practice as teachers. We were compelled to grapple with questions such as: What wage and what social support systems would enable women to pressures of marriage and caste society to continue working as teachers and activists? What kind of in-service support would allow for a reflective and critical teaching practice? Why is there resistance even among progressive movement spaces to acknowledge the labour of teachers as political work? We drew upon the work of social reproduction feminists, particularly anti-caste thinkers and African American scholars’ writings about women’s work. Carried out over a period of one year, the study is a qualitative inquiry. Initial data was gathered through surveys and in-depth semi-structured interviews with teachers and unstructured interviews with school heads. This was accompanied by school visits and a group discussion. It is a study conducted collectively by four practising teachers themselves.