Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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Few new admissions in many Delhi private schools as Covid-hit families can’t afford them now

Parents from low-income groups say they can no longer afford the Rs 500-1,200/month fee, and are now turning to govt schools in Delhi. This has hit EWS admissions too.

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New Delhi: Mamta Devi, 36, a house help in South Delhi, has three children to educate but with limited means. 

Her situation has only worsened in the pandemic. Her husband, working as a security guard, lost his job several times over the past one year, bringing the family income down to a little over Rs 1 lakh per annum, from the earlier Rs 1.5 lakh.

The drop in earnings has meant that Devi can no longer afford low-budget private schools in the national capital that charge anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1,200 as monthly fee. And their over-Rs-1-lakh-per-annum-family-income also means the children are not eligible for the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) quota in private schools, which is only for those with an annual income of less than Rs 1 lakh. 

“We could not qualify for the economically weaker section category for private schools because our salary is a little over Rs 1 lakh. That would have given us the advantage of paying a nominal fee,” Mamta Devi told ThePrint. “We haven’t paid our son’s school fee since December. It is getting increasingly difficult to afford private education. From Class 6 onwards, we are going to get him admitted to a government school.”

The boy will join his older daughters who already study in a government school.

Devi is among a growing number of low-income parents who have been forced to pull their children out of low-budget private schools in Delhi due to the pandemic. 

ThePrint spoke to several such parents whose annual pre-pandemic income was in the Rs 2-3 lakh range, which has now dropped to between Rs 70,000 and a little over Rs 1 lakh per annum. These parents earlier could afford to send their children to cheaper private schools but are now looking to admit them in Delhi’s government schools. 

Among them is 30-year-old Geeta whose family of six is living a hand-to-mouth existence in the pandemic. The home maker told ThePrint that their income is barely enough to run the family and hence they are planning to shift their two children to a government school. 

“My husband was an insurance salesman and now has to sell vegetables to provide for us,” she said. “We can not afford a smartphone and so for the past year-and-a-half, my children haven’t been able to study. We haven’t paid the school fee for the last year.” 

The family’s annual income is just a little over Rs 70,000 per annum these days, from the earlier over a lakh. 

“I am hoping that the government school along with free education will be able to provide some kind of technological aid to help my children study,” she added.

Also read: Over 1 cr kids in Bihar, 30 lakh in Karnataka lack access to digital learning, govt data shows

Budget schools tell a similar tale

The budget schools in the national capital confirm that a lot of parents are unable to pay the fees.  

There are about 2,000 such schools in Delhi, and many say they have had no new admissions in the last year, with existing students also pulling out. 

“The pandemic has hit the lower middle class and lower income groups the hardest. This is exactly the demographic that sends their children to affordable schools,” said Chandrakant Singh, the founder of Ideal Radiant Public School in Delhi’s Uttam Nagar. “Our fee collection has been hit the hardest. Where we used to run three sections per grade, now we only have 13-15 students attending our online sessions.”

During the pre-pandemic time, Singh said, they had 800 students studying in standards upto Class 8. “We are now only left with about 400-odd students, the rest are not in touch with us. They haven’t paid their fee or haven’t been available at their addresses,” he added.

Singh also said more and more parents are making the shift to government schools. “There are several parents who we know are planning to shift their children to government schools.” 

He added that over a quarter of the parents were in touch with him and shared their financial problems but he has been unable to help them so far.

“We have continued our online classes for most students whose parents haven’t paid the fee. We give them a time period of 2-3 months to arrange at least a part of the fee,” he said.

His views were seconded by Hiralal Pandey, school manager of Bharti Model School near the Nawada Metro Station in North Delhi. 

“For pre-primary and primary grades, our monthly fee is Rs 600-750 and for grades 6, 7, 8, the fee is Rs 1,100,” he said. “Every year, we used to get 300 admissions including in nursery, but this year that number has reduced to just three students.” 

Pandey added: “Government schools are becoming an attractive option for families right now with their promise of dry ration and free books. But had the educational infrastructure existed to accommodate all students, schools like ours wouldn’t have started in the first place.” 

ThePrint reached Udit Prakash, Director, Director of Education, Delhi, through messages and phone calls for a comment but did not get a response.

Also read: Salaries cut, ‘struggling to collect fees’: Private schools are worried as Covid drags on

Effect on EWS admissions

The lack of student admissions has had a cascading effect on the economically weaker section (EWS) category admissions, which ensure free education in private schools for children from families with an income less than Rs 1 lakh per annum.

While pandemic has added many families to the EWS recently, they don’t yet have the certificate to qualify for the category and hence can’t avail the option of free education. For those who are already in the category, it’s difficult to get admission unless there are enough applicants in the general category. 

According to the Right to Education (RTE) Act of 2009, at least 25 per cent of seats in entry-level classes — nursery, kindergarten, and Class 1 — of private schools have to be reserved for EWS or Disadvantaged Groups (22 per cent) and children with disabilities (3 per cent). 

Most schools ThePrint spoke to, however, said this cannot be done if there are no applications in the general category. 

As opposed to 200-300 general category admissions previously, the low-budget schools ThePrint spoke to claimed to have seen almost zero admissions this year. The declining number of admissions in low-budget schools also means these schools will be unable to support students from the EWS category.  

The Delhi government had started the entry-level admission process of EWS, Disadvantaged Groups, and Children With Special Needs on 15 June.

Umesh Tyagi, manager at Rajdhani Public School in Vikasnagaer, said, “The funds for EWS students from the Delhi government are often delayed and so we have to bear the costs initially. It was manageable during pre-pandemic times but now we are stretched thin for resources. How do we accommodate these students with no general students or funds?”

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: CBSE to declare Class 12 results by 31 July using 30:30:40 formula. Here is how it will work


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