Private schools exhaust financial resources, may be compelled to shut down

Over 390 private unaided schools in Mumbai, Thane, Dombivali and Kalyan areas state they will be compelled to withdraw admissions of students or shut down completely if parents continue to not pay fees. This appeal has come as these schools shut online classes for all students on Thursday highlighting 'No fees, no school’ campaign to request parents of students to pay pending fees or face repercussions due to lack of funds.

Over 5,800 private unaided member schools under the Federation of Schools Association of Maharashtra (FSAM) staged an appeal by blocking online classes for all students starting from December 15, in Pune, Mumbai and other parts of the state. This appeal was called as private unaided schools said over 50 to 60 per cent parents of students studying in the schools have not paid fees claiming financial losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Budget private unaided schools revealed they have exhausted all financial resources and are depending solely on academic fees to pay salaries of teachers. Rajendra Singh, state president of FSAM, said, "Our teachers and staff have reached a breaking point because they have been facing salary cuts since the last eight months. We have exhausted all financial resources. If parents continue to not pay fees for regular education, we will be forced to withdraw admissions of students. Also, this will lead to indefinite closure of both online and offline schools in Maharashtra because our staff will shift to other professions."

Teachers of private unaided schools said parents cannot take schools for granted because the education system has shifted to online mode. Niharika Salunkhe, a parent said, "Parents should realise that their children are accessing education on a daily basis via online classes. We have been working tirelessly every day to ensure that students are not deprived of academic learning despite the pandemic. We all have suffered financial losses but, if parents can pay other bills they should be able to pay for their child's education in a private unaided school."

On the other hand, parents said they cannot afford to pay school fees due to financial constraints. Jitendra Mehta, a parent said, "I have suffered a 50 per cent pay cut since March. I want to request schools to grant some relaxation in payment of fees or, I will be left with no choice but to shift my son to a government aided school."

FSAM cleared the confusion stating schools are not against parents but, schools are appealing to parents to come forward and discuss the isssue. Singh said, "There are some private unaided schools that have illegally hiked fees but, parents cannot generalise and blame all schools for it. Some budget schools are willing to have a discussion where parents can provide salary or bank statements denoting a salary cut or loss of pay in the recent months. We will definitely try to waive off the fees in such cases or provide some relaxations."

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