Amid the extended Covid-19 induced mass closure of educational institutions, several schools have been facing challenges to provide online classes due to non-payment of fees by many parents. The situation is even more worrying for schools that provide affordable education to children from marginalised sections of the society. Many such budget private schools that are largely dependent on CSR funds are struggling to continue functioning and provide online learning in the face of steep financial challenges triggered by the school fees imbroglio.
As most low-income families lack digital devices and Internet connectivity, only 500 of the 1,500 students of Valley View High School that cater to disadvantaged children in Pune, are learning online. The government recognised, permanently unaided, state board affiliated Pre-K-10 school runs on CSR funds. Due to the novel coronavirus induced lockdown, the school has not been able to collect fees or receive CSR funds to pay salaries to their teachers and manage other expenses.
Nilesh Kulkarni, secretary, Trimurti Education Society that runs the school says the challenges are herculean. He says salaries of staff, electricity and taxes continue to be an expense with no income absolutely as they are unable to collect fees. “RTE funds from the government for previous years are not received yet which could have been a huge help to pay salaries to staff when we are short of funds,” he says. Established in 1996, the school has over 17 digital learning enabled classrooms, 50 teaching staff and over 1,500 students.
“Multiple children of different age groups from the same family of autorickshaw drivers, street vendors and other low-income groups have enrolled in our school and due to short of devices, it gets difficult to ensure that all children are learning online. We are afraid that parents will remove their children from school due to lack of funds and learning. It takes a lot of effort to convince such poor parents the importance of education and to send their wards to schools. Parents with more than one child give importance to education of their older child,” he says.
The school started online classes on June 15 for 500 students who have access to digital devices. It trained teachers on online lessons delivery from the last week of May to mid-June. The school uses the Teno App which works as a digital diary to send homework, classwork, track student attendance, share videos, worksheets and to send links for online classes. Telephony is established via Zoom. The school is working on migrating to Google Classrooms for classes 8-10 as it allows more relevant features for higher grade students.
The school has 1,000 students not learning today because they don’t have access to digital devices and the Internet. The school requires 1,000 computers and dongle connections for its students and funds to pay teachers’ salaries. Assuming that each computer would cost Rs 10,000 and each dongle connection Rs 1,000 and Rs 84 lakh to pay teachers for a year, the school requires Rs 1.94 crore in total. If you would like to contribute or sponsor devices for the students to enable continuous learning for them, you may write to Nilesh at [email protected]. The school can provide income tax rebate certificate and 80 G certificate for monetary contributions.National, News