April 14, 2020
The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown several challenges upon the authorities to curb and prevent the outbreak from snowballing further. This has also led to the indefinite closure of educational institutions across the country without any timeframe on the resumption of classroom academics.
It has put a lot of stress on self-financed institutions that are totally dependent on fees to run school operations. Many state governments have issued circulars to private institutions to refrain from collecting fees.
While there is no doubt that an epidemic of this magnitude will add strain on all families especially due to the slump in the economy, it is imperative to understand that the process of learning and educating our children cannot stop.
How educational institutes are moving towards e-learning
Across India, several private educational institutions are moving to e-learning with the use of several applications along with conducting e-classrooms sessions with students.
Many students are in their final year of schooling or colleges and any breaks applied by schools in providing their services can jeopardize the careers of millions.
This roadblock has also created an opportunity for Indian education to move on to the online platform and give a very serious thought of conducting regular sessions online once schools start.
Moving forward, e-education will be the standard practice for scores of educational institutions across the world.
Moving to e-platforms also requires huge investments and for schools grappling with funds, it becomes very difficult without any source of income.
Impact of the school fee payment problem on teaching staff
However, while there is uninterrupted dissemination of education services provided by our valiant teaching staff despite awaiting their dues, their sacrifices along with the non-teaching staff must be appreciated.
It must also be noted that these teachers who are going beyond the call of duty are solely dependent on their salaries for their livelihood.
There are an approximate 5 crore teaching and non-teaching staff employed in over two lakh schools across India who are hoping that parents come forward at the time of crisis so that salaries can be paid to the staffers.
Here, the government and parents should ensure teachers’ concerns are considered by releasing adequate funds as an immediate resort which will help reduce the financial strain on them.
The government, state bodies, education boards, financial and educational institutions, and parents should jointly formulate a mechanism to make sure that academics and institutions don’t come to a grinding halt or a closure due to paucity of funds.
Here are three things that can be done to solve the school fee payment issue during lockdown
1. Providing interest-free loans to parents to pay fees as education is a part of the priority lending sector
This will ensure that no pillar of India’s growth will be compromised due to dearth of funds.
While RBI has on numerous occasions infused stimulus packages in our economy, this would be the first time the Central Bank can issue loans with zero interest and also provide relaxation in payment tenure for schools and higher education fees.
2. Interest-free loans should be extended to schools to pay salaries
The past decade has witnessed many sectors benefiting from the Finance Ministry and Reserve Bank of India to prevent collapse of business and these sops have helped these sectors revive their growth story.
While education is part of a priority lending sector, granting them interest-free loans to pay fees for crores of teaching and non-teaching staff would immensely help them and also reduce the burden of the parents who are obligated to pay timely fees.
This would also help conduct urgent repairs in schools to prepare them for the resumption of the academic year post-pandemic.
3. Provide subsidies for school bus operators due to drop in oil prices
The world has witnessed a slump in the oil market and while it is important for India to adjust costs owing to the pandemic by keeping a check on the excise rates and taxes on petroleum products.
Citing the present state of affairs, the government should also look into certain tax breaks or subsidies to aid these operators.
This will have a direct bearing on the economics of every parent who are sending their children to school.
– Article by Rustom Kerawalla is an Edupreneur and Chairman, Ampersand Group