The private schools and the government seem to be at loggerheads created by school closures due to COVID-19. The bone of contention is that the private school operators want to charge the parents for the lockdown period when the students and teachers stayed home and classes were halted for avoiding virus infection. The government has issued directives to the private schools not to charge the parents for the classes that were never operated. This sounds logical and reasonable but the school operators have their own version of demand. They say that they won’t be able to pay the teachers and other staff unless they receive the fees of the lockdown period. A news report carried by this daily on Monday said that around 200,000 private school teachers have not received their salaries of the past three months. There are also cases where teachers are being laid off in the aftermath of this abnormal situation. It is really a tricky situation for the concerned teachers to go unpaid when life is under unprecedented difficulties due to coronavirus pandemic. The sooner this knotty problem is untangled, the better.
The lockdown is an extreme situation that has thrown the regular pattern of life and business out of gear. Schools are one of the most sensitive sectors which had to be shut down to check the spread of the deadly virus. The School Education Exam (SEE) was postponed just one day before its schedule. The virus safety rules call for physical distancing which is not possible if classes are conducted in schools and colleges. A state of confusion ensued when the process of teaching-learning and new admission came to be disrupted. Considering virus transmission safety, schools remain closed even after the lockdown was relaxed for business activities. However, the government has instructed schools to conduct various methods of distance learning to give continuity to teaching-learning starting from the middle of June. Schools in the urban areas had been conducting online classes even before that time for the students staying idle at home. The private schools, however, are said to be charging parents for these virtual classes despite government warning not to do so.
As there is no signal of schools and colleges reopening soon with virus infection cases in the country rising daily, the grievances of the unpaid teachers keep piling up and getting worse if some workable solution is not found without delay. Schools that have made millions in profits in normal times should be generous enough to utilise their earnings to manage things in the emergency time like this. They should not be looking to the government to take care of their bank loans and interests. The state cannot do everything for all the schools. But there might be some schools in really precarious financial situation that may deserve help.
If there is financial transparency in private schools, a scrutiny into the accounting tells how much they were earning and profiting. The lingering phenomenon of the virus has made everything uncertain. The private schools are not an exception. Laying off teachers and keeping them unpaid is not good for them because it will be counterproductive if the situation gets to normalcy and schools are allowed to re-open. Educationists say that the government should find a mid-path solution to this problem by making parents pay minimum portion of fees so schools can pay the teachers.