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Teachers online petition

Karnataka: Teachers start online petition demanding withdrawal of govt order

April 21, 2020

With the Karnataka government order stating that the schools cannot compel parents to pay the fees, the schools are facing a challenging time to pay their staff. Some schools say the government should withdraw the order or parents who can pay during this situation, should come forward and do so. The teachers have started an online petition on addressing the state education minister Suresh Kumar S demanding that the government order issued on March 30 should be withdrawn. The petition started by Teachers Unite has already received support from over 9,000 people. But the government says that the fee that the schools have collected from the previous academic year should help pay the staff teachers for April and May.  

Dr Ratna Ghose, head of Capstone School High, Hoskote said the overall well-being of teachers is also important. “When the lockdown was announced, we immediately switched to online classes. The teachers had to reskill themselves to conduct the classes online and prepare online assessment for students. It would be difficult to support them financially during this difficult time if the parents do not pay the fees. The private schools especially depend on the education fees to run the institutions. The government should withdraw the order,” she said. She added that after discussions with teachers, they have come up with some measures to help teachers. “We have requested the teachers to share their comfort level with accepting the payment in a staggered manner. The teachers have agreed for a sustenance amount. But we need support from parents too. We would request parents who can pay, to pay the fees. We are also open to looking at the issues that they are facing at an individual level. We are all in this situation together,” she said.

Some schools have decided not to hike the fees following the order by the government. However, they say, the government should not insist on not collecting the fees and allow parents, those who can, to make the payment. Nooraine Fazal, co-founder and managing trustee of Inventure Academy called the government order unreasonable as most schools are low cost budget schools and do not have surplus. “The high cost budget schools are quite new and have invested highly on infrastructure. The lockdown happened five weeks ago and schools have rolled back fee hike understanding the situation as per the government order. But parents who can afford to pay the fee should be allowed to do so and those who cannot or have faced job loss can show some proof such as bank statement or Income Tax statement and ask for concessions. The government can provide loans on concession with some interest rate so that the opportunity for online learning can be used,” she said. 

Saad Sait, executive director, Legacy School and co-founder of Kai Early Years added, “While we remain cognisant of the challenges that could arise due to the uncertainties across the various industries, we are of the opinion that if there were to be an impediment in a school’s ability to collect its fees, this would have a direct bearing on our ability to sustain our existing operations and continue to compensate our teachers and staff fairly in order to provide a quality international education.” He added, “In the event that the lockdown and social distancing mandate continues, we are further enhancing our infrastructure and training capabilities to be able to continue to support our teachers with specific professional development so that they may continue to engage with our children across the grades more meaningfully online.”

Earlier, several parents had raised complaints with the Primary and Secondary Education Minister that the schools are demanding payment for the e-books since the classes are now being held online and coaching classes that they run. D Shashikumar, general secretary, Karnataka Associated Management of English-Medium Schools (KAMS) said that the government should understand that 60 per cent of the schools collect fees on a monthly basis and pay their staff and other bills. “The principal secretary of the education department has no sense on how the schools function and is putting us at higher risk than that of COVID-19. It is unfortunate that he looks only at high fees collecting schools and is passing irrelevant orders. Of the 20,000 schools, 60 per cent of them collect fees on a monthly basis and they pay their staff and manage other expenses with it. The schools have not been receiving fees for the last two months already. How are they expected to pay the staff then?” he asked.
Umashankar S, principal secretary, primary and secondary education, Government of Karnataka said that the order was issued keeping children and parents in mind. “We took this measure so that it does not create panic among parents. The schools mostly collect annual fees or quarterly fee. They have received the fee for the last academic year and hence, that should be sufficient to pay the teachers for the month of April and May,” he said.  

Akhila Damodaran

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