V.S. Palaniappan

Even as the soaring in

lation is hitting the people hard, the commencement of academic year has brought another burden for the middle income, lower middle income and low income group families. Irrespective of the income levels, families have a commitment every year to meet the education expenses. The beginning of an academic year brings commitments such as tuition fee, special fee and a host of other education-related expenses such as text books, notebooks, uniforms, shoes and transportation cost. Excursion fee, annual day charges come later. Besides, there is the inevitable expense on extravagance. Peer influence in schools put pressure on parents for buying expensive bag, water bottle, lunch box, pencil box and a number of other items. This makes a major dent in the budget of the middle income families. While every family is mentally and financially prepared for these expenses in May and June every year, the sky rocketing prices of essential commodities in the last few months has left most of the families in a piquant situation. The families already struggling to make both ends meet in the last few months have not been able to set aside much for meeting the education expenses. While the families are compromise some of the home needs, they are not able to do so with quality school education for the children. Waiting in a queue to pay fees for his daughter studying in Standard III, V. Sampathkumar, points out that the tuition fee, special fee and term fee have gone up marginally. Fee hike happens every year and for every class it has been very marginal. School authorities say that they have to keep improving the infrastructure every year besides paying salaries and incurring other administrative expenses. Hence, the marginal rise every year. There is no complaint over the cost of education, but inflation has come as a major blow to the salaried class. Vinay, whose daughter studies in a matriculation school, says “normally I used to prepare myself financially for the fee and other expenses well ahead of the academic year. I used to set aside Rs.1,000 a month at least from September/October so as to have a substantial saving for education expenses to be incurred in May and June. “But, this year, with prices soaring almost every day, setting aside the money has become extremely difficult,” he says.

Another parent who works in a Government department says “For both my children, I required more than 30,000 for the fee, books, uniform and shoes. I may require at least ten months for repaying this loan. When I complete this loan, the next year’s education expenses would be coming up and this becomes a cycle”, he said.

Sangeetha, parent of a Standard VI student, says that though the institutions give the option of paying the fee in three instalments, i.e. for three different terms, she prefers to pay it at one go for two reasons. “One is to make sure that education expenses for the whole year is taken care of at one stroke and the other reason is that the remittance of the entire tuition fee and the submission of the challan will get us some marginal IT exemption”. Uniform material prices witnessed a seven to 15 per cent hike in prices while the tailoring charges have gone up by Rs. 20 to Rs. 60. While these are one time expenses, parents are forced to make alterations in their monthly budget for an increase of Rs. 40 to Rs. 80, which the school van operators are planning this year, says Arul Raj, a Government employee.