Home > India 2012 > Omnipresent Support Staff

Omnipresent Support Staff

In India, as in the US, there is discussion of whether to automate functions that have traditionally been done by human labor. Unlike in the US, the decision often goes in favor of human labor because a) low wages make the cost differential less compelling, and b) the need to employ people is felt as a broadly shared responsibility. There are SO many people to employ here!

Thus one sees people everywhere sweeping and cleaning things by hand. I feel as if the sound of a broom chafing across cement is part of the background everywhere. A small army of women in saris keeps things clean at R.S. Kinsagara School. That’s their work uniform, by the way!

A few years ago, the central government passed a law requiring private schools to reserve 25% of their seats for children too poor to pay tuition. At RSK, this requirement was fulfilled by opening a separate school campus and inviting staff members to enroll their children. These children have access to the full facilities of the school, but they are segregated, and the instruction is in Gujarati, the local language, rather than English. There are many interesting ethical dimensions to this choice, but of course it does give the drivers, housekeepers, and other staff a benefit that’s of great value.

I wonder if that’s part of the reason for the notably easygoing interactions I’ve witnessed between faculty and staff. They seem to acknowledge each other routinely and speak to each other pleasantly and respectfully. While climbing a stairwell today, I saw the art teacher gluing the sandal of a housekeeper. Here’s the photo I snapped.


Categories: India 2012
  1. Deborah Marion
    July 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Tina, for some reason this post, especially that last picture, brought me to tears.

  2. Chris Allen
    July 10, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Tina…thanks for the insights. Your ability to cover such a broad and sweeping subject like the Indian educational system and condense it into these amazing blogs is greatly appreciated. Thanks for letting us know the enrollment and number of faculty at RSK because the school’s lobby looked like the lobby of an Embassy Suites Hotel. If possible, would you consider including some comparisons to Durham Academy, or any of the local public schools you are familiar with, just to give a different point of reference for what you are experiencing there. For instance, how similar, or dissimilar, is the Galaxy curriculum to what is offered at DA.

    As a post colonial society steeped in the British tradition how much does that tradition impact modern India’s educational system. Inquiring minds want to know !!!

    By the way, the mosquitoes that you haven’t seen…..well, they are all here.

  3. Laura
    July 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

    What a special moment you captured in that last photo! And the people involved probably saw it as routine, which is a great argument for leaving the familiar to understand it more thoroughly.

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