The principal of Powai English High School– a state board school in Mumbai’s Powai-Shirley Pillai has managed to raise Rs 40 lakhs to pay the school fees of around 200 students. She started a fundraising campaign from corporate household and individuals soon after the nationwide lockdown was announced in March last year.
In my 35 years of teaching, this was the first time that I saw report cards pile up on my desk and parents unwilling to come and get the same, recollects Pillai, who has been heading the institution for four years.
Parents have faced job losses and pay cuts due to the global pandemic. “Leave aside school fees, people are even struggling to make ends meet. When we reached out to the parents, we understood their hardships and hence decided to come up with something so that they could continue studying in the schools. We have children of daily wagers and lower-middle-class families studying with is. The worry was that girl students would be the first to be forced to drop out of school,” Pillai said.
The school initially reduced the annual fee of Rs 35,000 by 25 per cent for the academic year 2019-20. The teaching and non-teaching also took a 30 per cent to 50 per cent salary cut. “When that too looked difficult, I decided to appeal to corporates and individuals in Powai,” Pillai added.
Local communities and other networks and social media helped raise funds for the education of students. The principal further said that corporates took a while to respond. “It would be great if we got a few sponsers for our students,” Pillai said.
The issue of fees is something sensitive and the school has asked the students to leave it to the adults and concentrate on their academics. The funds which was raised was also used to pay the fees of the children of school’s peons and bus drivers. The school had informed parents that sponsors were paying their children’s fees till recently. They had no idea about Pillai’s role.
“I am putting in my best. I will not rest till the remaining report cards of 2019-20 are taken away by parents without any fear or worry,” she said.
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