Chennai Corporation's drive to enrol more students to its Chennai Schools is proving to be quite a challenge in north Chennai areas as many private schools have also announced partial or even full fee waiver.

Teachers involved in the enrolment work said that despite the various initiatives of the civic body, including distribution of free uniform, school bags and footwear to changing the name from Corporation Schools, for many parents Chennai Schools is not the automatic choice for their children.

According to officials of the civic body's Education Department, there are around 100 Chennai Schools in north Chennai. Many private schools have also mushroomed over the years in the area to suit different budgets.

On Monday, the Chennai Corporation launched Phase-II of the enrolment drive for its schools in north Chennai with an exhibition showcasing different infrastructural and student-friendly programmes available in the institutions.

One of the main reasons for many parents going to the private schools is the appeal of English medium education, the teachers said. G. Selvi's children are studying in private English medium schools.

Though she wants her third child to get similar kind of education, her current financial situation does not allow. “I have tried to convince myself that even a Corporation school can offer the best to my daughter,” says Ms.Selvi, who works as tailor.

Among the private schools that are attracting new students with offers related to the fee are CSI Bain Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Kodungaiyur, which has put up a banner highlighting its “very nominal fee” among other features. The management of Sri Sayee Vivekananda Matriculation School says it offers partial or full fee waiver to students.

Mercury Matriculation Higher Secondary School claims that 40 per cent of the children it takes are from the surrounding slums.

Private school heads, however, say there is no competition between the corporation-run and private schools and it is parents who are making an informed choice. A majority of their students are first generation learners, they add.

“We charge Rs.110 per month and Rs.2,000 as yearly fee, which is very reasonable to the amenities we keep adding. There is no competition between corporation and private school and we certainly have a free hand to add things as we want,” says Lalitha Mohanan, correspondent, Mercury Matriculation Higher Secondary School.

Speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the exhibition at Chennai High School in Sharma Nagar, Mayor M. Subramanian said that in the enrolment drive, which began on April 1, 2,527 students have been admitted. Around 135 students were given admission card in north Chennai on Monday.

According to a release from the Corporation, around Rs.4 crore was being spent toward various schemes including free shoes, uniforms and dictionary.

Teachers are being trained periodically to impart the best to children, and different extra-curricular activities are conducted to attract more students.

Another section of teachers say there is movement from Chennai Schools to private schools and vice-versa.

“Our school is four years old and we have been developing the school like any other private institution. I already had seven to eight enquiries from the neighbouring private schools and will know the exact extent of this campaign once the school reopens,” said headmistress of a Chennai Primary School in Vyasarpadi.

Meanwhile, three Chennai Schools are working at getting the Quality Council of India certificate, which educational advisors say would be another first for schools run by civic bodies.

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