HYDERABAD: Arbitrary fee hike by private schools in the city has always caught the attention of the media and the civil society. Though the government seems to have done little to address the issue, it has at least acknowledged the financial burden on parents and the high-handedness of the school managements.
There is, however, a flip side to the coin. Several private schools, particularly the ‘budget schools’, are worried that they are running in losses and might have to shut shop because of parents who default on paying fees.
After seeking and securing several extensions during the academic year, they finally evade payment and get their children admitted to some other school. In a bid to curb such cheating by parents, lower and middle- rung private schools are mooting making No Dues Certificate mandatory for students seeking new admissions.
Private schools comprise nearly 55 per cent of the total number of schools. Of these, barely 5 per cent are ‘international’ and corporate schools. The remaining schools charge fees ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 40,000 per month.
Managements claim that parents can choose the school they can afford. “If they tell us that they are facing a financial crunch, we give them time extension and tell them to pay in instalments,” S Madhusudan Reddy, a member of Telangana Recognised School Managements Association, said and apprehended closure of nearly half of ‘budget schools’ in the next five years owing to losses on account of non-payment of fees.
According to Imran Baig, principal of Adam School at Shaheen Nagar in the Old City, such cases account for about 20 per cent revenue loss annually.
The managements of these schools are waiting for examinations in their schools to end to discuss the matter and make NDC a mandatory document for students seeking admission. They also plan to send the proposal to the district education officer and mandal education officers. “We plan to introduce it in the 2018-19 academic year for admission to Class V and above. Though the dropout rate is more in lower classes, the idea is to streamline the norm first,” said Baig.
Explaining the burden a school bears, the principal of a school in Jubliee Hills said that maintaining the infrastructure, paying salaries and spending on other activities cannot be taken up if parents defaulted on fee payment. “When school managements ask for fee, parents bring in activists, local leaders and, sometimes, even goons and police. We are threatened and even implicated in false cases,” she said.
Serial defaulters who change schools every couple of years to avoid paying fee would not be able to get No Dues Certificate from current school without clearing dues and new school will not take admission in the absence of the certificate.
School managements think that a two-pronged approach is needed to deal with such a situation: Parents should be made liable to pay fee and schools should be given the right to collect fee.
Child Rights activist Achyuta Rao agrees paying fee is a parent’s liability for which schools need to interact with them. “Fee has to be paid by parents and it’s their responsibility but schools cannot resort to beating, humiliating and harassing kids over dues. It is a crime under the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000.”
Education allowance Budget private school managements claim that since they cater to more students than the government itself does, a considerable amount of which belong to lower or economically weaker backgrounds, the government should step in and ensure that such children are not deprived of education
“With this aim, National Independent Schools Alliance and Telangana Recognised Schools Management Associations have raised the demand for government to fund the education of such students by offering them an educational allowance of Rs 2,500 per month,” said Madhusudhan.
The amount thus spent annually, Rs 30,000, is lesser than what government claims to spend on per child per year which is Rs 40,000.
In light of the increasing demands for private school education, such a measure would arrest dropout rate and make education affordable, said Kranti Ravi, principal, of a high school in Abids.