Gireeshkumar, a painter who resides at Perukavu, recently shifted his elder daughter from a private school in the city to a government school. Like many parents, he wanted to give his daughter a private school education, but could not pay the fee as COVID-19 has left him jobless.
At the end of the year, the school asked him to pay the pending fee or his daughter would not be promoted. There was no option but to shift his daughter to a government school.
“There is good opinion about government schools these days. At the other school, the online classes were just average. Students were not given any recreational activity. Not once did the school ask how she was doing; the only calls we received were to ask us about the fee,” says Gireeshkumar.
Raman (name changed), a labourer who lives at Anchamada, and his wife, a domestic worker, have pending fee to the tune of ₹2,000 for their daught studying in a private school. Thankfully, after some initial calls, the school has not exerted pressure on them to pay up. Without regular work, shifting their daughter to a government school seems a logical move for the couple.
K. Buhari, headmaster, Government Lower Primary School, Cotton Hill, said over 90% of the students who had taken admission this year from other school boards hailed from families experiencing financial stress. “So far, 224 students have taken admission to classes 2, 3 and 4 from CBSE or ICSE streams, while there are only two cases of transfers from other government schools. The admissions to class 1 have also increased from 221 in June last year to 289 now.”
Other school headmasters also attest to a shift of students from private schools to government institutions. Mr. Buhari said families experiencing financial distress cannot afford to pay advance fee in lump sum as sought by private schools. Even things such as free textbooks and uniform and noon meal kits provided by government schools matter to families in times of crises. Moreover, government schools, with support from various quarters, are trying to arrange smartphones for students to attend online classes.
The Principal of a prominent private school said many parents, who were well-off, had come to him citing loss of income and financial difficulties in the wake of COVID-19. At the same time, there are some parents who did not pay fee not because they cannot afford it, but because they did not want to pay it, he said. Many private schools were facing crisis as students leave without even taking transfer certificates (TC). TC was not mandatory for admission to government institutions, he said.