Parents hail the decision; Teachers oppose it
Bangalore: The closure of schools because the pandemic caused them losses, a burden increased by the government’s order to charge only 70% of fees.
“We give fee discounts to a lot of students, but still parents don’t pay fees. Now with this new order, we won’t have money at all. How do we run the school?” said Dr Charles Thomas, principal of Bethel India Mission School. He described his condition as “a fine kettle of fish”.
Nearly 4,000 private schools will have to follow the government order to collect only 70% of the fees. In such a situation, schools could be left with the option of reducing the salaries of their employees.
Mani Ratna, a private school teacher, said she opposes the government’s decision. “My husband and I are earning members, unlike many of my colleagues who are single parents. It will be really difficult for them.” They received only 50% salaries as classes were held online. The government order has worsened their situation.
On February 23, more than 25,000 teachers, school management authorities and non-teaching staff of private schools protested in Bengaluru against the government’s refusal to roll back the order.
Delhi Public School administrator Biji Kumari said classes are still being held online “We can do nothing but wait for the government to reverse its order.”
The school administration has also said that they are paying full salaries to all teaching and non-teaching staff despite the lockdown and the government’s new order.
When The Observer checked with one of the non-teaching employees about salaries, she said: “They are lying. They are only paying Rs 3,000 of my Rs 7,000 salary.”
Thomas said pointing at a kid: “Look, his father is a government employee and he is earning good, but still they are so reluctant to pay the school fee.” It’s not a financial problem but negligence that is stopping parents from paying fee.
For many parents, the 30% cut in tuition fee has come as a blessing. The government has also asked the school managements to not increase school fee. Still, many parents are complaining that the schools are forcing them to pay the full amount.
“Despite the government’s decision, the school management is behind us to pay the full amount. They keep calling us every alternate day asking for money,” said Chandrakala, a mother of two. Another parent, Prameela K, said the management has been charging full fee since the pandemic started.
School authorities said they have lot of expenses such as salaries of teachers and non-teaching staff, lab expenses, sports and transportation costs, and maintenance of infrastructure. According to them as the schools are reopening, Covid-19 measures are being taken and regular sanitization is being done. These are additional costs.
Sudha Dinesh N, principal of the Vivekananda Public School, said: “We sanitize the entire school every day, and we are not asking parents any additional money for that. We are not a very big school. We don’t get any funds. We charge a very little fee. It is going to be a tough time for us now.”
Deepa P S, Jnana Jyothi Vidyaniketana School’s accountant and Kannada teacher, said: “We don’t want parents to suffer either, The management is talking to the parents. We will come to a decision very soon.” The school is suffering losses as enrolments have come down this year. Many students have dropped out due to the pandemic.
Many petitions have been filed against the government order to cut fee by 30%. A bench of Karnataka High Court, led by Justice R Devdas, has ordered the state government to file its statement of objective within 10 days from 25th February.
One of the petitions was filed by the Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka (KAMS). The secretary of the association, D Shashi Kumar, said: “We are not against parents, but the decision is affecting us. On what basis did the government take this decision is not clear.” He added that on paper, it’s a 30% fees cut, but it is more than that, it is around 45 to 50%. “We don’t have a problem if it’s 10% but 30% is too much; moreover, the government does not provide us with any aid.”