Around 1,036 schools under private management closed down over the past five years in Telangana. The sharpest dip in numbers occurred during the pandemic years between 2019 and 2021 when 742 private schools shut down, according to statistics of the Department of School Education.
More than a quarter of students or 27.5% pursuing elementary education study in private schools in Telangana.
“The numbers are higher. In Hyderabad alone around 300 schools have closed down or are on the verge of closure. Parents are unwilling to pay fee for online classes. School managements with rented buildings are the worst affected,” says Uma Maheshwara Rao, president of Telangana Recognised Schools Management Association.
One of the reasons for under-reporting of school closures is that the recognition is valid for 10 years.
Medchal lost 53 private schools, Warangal Urban has lost 50 schools, Khammam lost 44 schools, showing that the closures have affected most towns and villages in the State.
The distribution of private schools is very uneven with a large number operating in urban areas like Hyderabad, Medchal, Rangareddy and Warangal Urban districts.
A majority of schools that have closed down are the ones that catered to the aspirational class with monthly fee in the range of ₹700 and ₹2000 per month per pupil.
“The school principal is asking for ₹70,000 for pending fee before issuing Transfer Certificate. My children have not attended online classes as we have only one smartphone. Why should I pay the fee,” says Manga, who works as a househelp.
“The annual fee is ₹18,000, I paid ₹1,570 for the books and refused to buy school uniform,” says Krishnaveni whose grand-daughter goes to a private school in Ramakrishnapuram.
Govt. schools blamed
“If the government schools were better and functioned normally, I would have sent her there. But we don’t have a choice,” says Krishnaveni.
The schools that are still surviving have adopted multi-pronged strategies to stay afloat.
“We have cut fee. Between LKG and Class V, parents have to pay ₹3000 per year. For classes V to IX, it is ₹4000. This is nearly one third of the normal fee of ₹12,600 per annum,” says the owner of a school which has 652 students on rolls and operates with 24 classrooms.
The class timings are staggered so that children sharing a single phone can attend classes.
“I have children in Class IV, VII and IX. They share one smartphone we have at home and they have classes at different times,” says Nand Lal, who hails from Bihar and makes a living by cooking at functions.
A few months back, when Shyamoli called the neighbourhood school for enrolling her child.
The owner of the school informed her that she has shut down the school and shifted to Mumbai. With the closure of the school in Sai Sagar Enclave, Kanajiguda; Shyamoli had to shell out almost double the fee to enrol her child in another school. But for many citizens, the closure of neighbourhood schools is one avenue shut in their upward mobility.