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Delhi: Low-cost schools fear closure as parents struggle to pay fees

July 7, 2020

Amidst the Covid-19 imposed lockdown, teachers have remained unpaid for months and schools are yet to receive fees apart from a fee waiver. In the light of this, several low-cost private schools in Delhi, catering to children from lower-middle-class and working-class families are struggling to stay afloat.

Madhuri Aggarwal, who runs a primary school, Winner’z Public School, for children of migrant labourers in Pochanpur, in Southwest Delhi’s Dwarka is charging Rs 600 a month as fees for nursery students and an incremental hike of Rs 50 for every subsequent class. She explains, “Everything we collect is diverted to the school. Around 99 per cent of our parents are labourers and do masonry and carpentry jobs. Many of the mothers work as domestic helps. Through this entire lockdown period, not a single parent has been able to pay fees. As a result, we have neither been able to pay our teachers nor our rent since April.”

Low-cost schools operate with little finances and depend mostly on the tuition fee they charge. Sushil Dhankar, who runs Hari Vidya Bhawan School in Sangam Vihar in South Delhi with classes from nursery to Class 12, says he got merely four percent of the fees in April and nothing in the subsequent months. He added, “I paid my staff their April salaries, and for May, I gave them 50 percent of their pay from my personal savings. But I have not been able to pay them for June. I have promised to pay their dues once the school reopens and fees start coming in.”

A primary school in South Delhi’s Prahladpur, who charges Rs 650 per student says, “I have called up around a hundred parents in the last three days asking for fees but everyone says they have no money. I also have a rent of Rs 25,000 to pay for the school premises. The landlord has given me time till the school opens. My fear is that even after it does, parents will say they are unable to pay the pending fees. Hum nahi chala payenge… hum bhi middle class ke hi hain (We won’t be able to run the school. We are, after all, from the middle class).”

Bal Vaishali Public School in Badarpur’s owner Ashok Sharma says, “Only 20 percent of our 800 students have been attending our online classes — many skipped because of connectivity issues and we haven’t been able to contact the others. We are not sure how many of them will remain with the school.”

Sharma said, “A father whose three children study in my school told me he would not send them to school for the rest of the year because of his economic situation. He requested me to keep all of them in the school’s records so that they can rejoin in their current classes next year. I had nothing to tell him. I realised pressuring parents to pay is no solution. I’ve already cut my teaching staff from 23 to 14 to cut costs.”

Supriya Sushanti, who teaches the primary section of Hari Vidya Bhavansays, “I haven’t been getting my salary and and my husband lost his job at a mall. We have asked the landlord to excuse us from paying rent for the time being. Since I have not been paid my salary for a few months, I told the owner of the school where I teach that I cannot pay my daughter’s fees. The owner said he would pay my dues when the school reopens. Let’s see what happens.”

Source: The Indian Express

Also read: West Bengal schools tell parents to provide pay cut proof for fee waiver

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