On Thursday, December 23, Suresh (name changed), a resident of Hastinapuram in Hyderabad, received two messages on his phone in quick succession. It came from his son’s city-based school, asking him to immediately pay Rs 83,5000 towards the fee by December 2021. “I was shocked. They are asking me to pay close to Rs 1 lakh by this month. How am I supposed to pay such a large sum in a short span?” said Suresh. Several other parents, too, received such reminders from schools across Telangana, demanding the due tuition fee for academic years 2020-21 and 2021-22.
In March 2020, schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, switching to digital learning to complete the syllabus in the meantime. According to the Department of Education, 742 private schools were shut down during the pandemic. Over a year later, with COVID-19 cases declining, all the educational institutions were reopened in September 2021. Students were given the choice to attend classes physically or avail classes online.
“For the last three days, my son has not been going to school. He is at home because the school has been asking us to pay Rs 80,000 in a single settlement. During the pandemic, my company reduced my pay. I now earn Rs 20,000 per month,” said Rajender Bhupathi, a resident of Nadergul, who works in a private company. “I am just recovering from the financial woes caused by the pandemic. People are getting fired at work, and now they are asking for such huge amounts of money,” he added.
Rajender’s son studies in Class 3 at a private school in Hyderabad’s Maisaram. The school management is asking to pay a pending fee of Rs 40,000 for 2020-21 and another Rs 40,000 for the current academic year 2021-22, he said. “Why are they demanding the fee for 2020-21 when schools hardly functioned physically? They are threatening that if I do not clear the dues, my son would not be promoted to class 4,” alleged Rajender.
According to Telangana Recognised School Managements Association (TRSMA), an association for budget private schools in Telangana, schools are yet to collect full fees for the 2020-21 year, and parents were not paying fees for the current academic year as well, making it difficult for the schools to function. “Parents are unwilling to pay fees. They are under the impression that schools might be shut down again considering the COVID-19 situation due to the Omicron variant. They do not want to clear the dues, thinking that they will be at a loss if they pay the fee and if a lockdown is imposed again,” Y Shekar Reddy, president of TRSMA, told TNM.
“Parents should also understand that we have incurred losses, and by only collecting fees we can run the schools,” he added.
The demand of the school management, however, in violation of the Telangana Government Order 46, alleged Shabbir Ali, Telangana Private Teachers’ Forum president. According to GO 46, issued in April 2020, schools were asked not to increase any kind of fees for the academic year 2020-21, and that they shall charge only tuition fees every month.
“Many schools are demanding fees as a one-time settlement, anticipating an imminent lockdown. This violates GO 46. While they are demanding huge sums from parents, at the same time they are not paying the salaries to the teachers,” he said.
Not just schools, even junior colleges have been demanding full-term fees, according to activists. “All educational institutions are demanding full fee, though this is more prevalent in schools,” said Nagati Narayana, president of Telangana Parents’ Association.
TNM reached out to the Director of Telangana School Education, Devasena, for her comment on the issue. However, she remained inaccessible. The copy will be updated when, or if, she responds.