A large number of parents in Haryana, bogged down by the financial crisis amid paycuts and job loss during the lockdown enforced following the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, have moved their children from private schools to the ones run by the government.
This has prompted the Haryana government to order the private schools not to create hurdles in the way of such students who are keen for migration from private to state-run schools. The education department has also initiated a process to collect the details to know the exact number of such students.
According to the official documents, the government school heads and many teacher unions informed the Haryana School Education Directorate that a large number of students were trying to migrate to state-run schools. However, they could not be admitted through online process as the private schools were not issuing school leaving certificates.
Following the feedback, the education department has asked government schools to immediately admit all such students who are keen to shift from the private ones.
“While admitting such students, the private schools concerned should be requested to issue their online school leaving certificate (SLC) within 15 days. If the online SLC is not received within 15 days, then it would be presumed that the schools concerned have issued the certificates,” mentions an order issued by the school directorate on June 15.
“The students are authorized to choose the school of their choice as per the Right to Education Act, 2009.” The directorate also mentioned that the formal education of students should not be affected because of the Covid- 19 pandemic.
Director of Elementary Education Department, Pardeep Kumar told the Indian Express that they have already asked the government teachers to attend the schools. “We admit the students in government schools even on the basis of WhatsApp messages,” he added.
According to officials, almost half of the 52 lakh students study in private schools in Haryana. The state has about 24,000 schools of which nearly 14,500 are state-run while the rest are in private sector.
A trend emerged over past few decades where the middle and the lower middle class preferred to put their children in private schools instead the government schools. This trend was witnessed not only in cities but even in small towns and villages too. As many as 2,502 government schools were closed due to low enrollment.
“But a large number of people have lost their jobs and businesses have been shut down because of lockdown. This scenario has made it impossible for them to take the burden of the hefty fee that private schools demand leading to migration of their children to state-run schools,” says Wazir Singh, spokesperson of Haryana Vidyalaya Adhyapak Sangh, a body of government school teachers.
Apart from free education, the government schools also provide free text books and funds for uniform, stationary and cycles to the students. For the students from dalit, backward and BPL families, there is provision of stipend too. Free mid day meal is offered to all the students till class 8.
A teachers’ union leader from Yamunanagar, Jagpal Singh, believes almost 10 per cent of the students of private schools may move to the government ones in coming days.
The government officials and the state-run school teachers’ unions believe the migration of students from private schools will have a positive impact.
“If students from middle or even lower middle class families, including those of government employees, get admissions in government schools, then they will contribute for the development of these schools like it used to happen earlier. Even their visit to the schools may make a difference,” said an official requesting not to be named.
Following objections raised by parents over hefty fee being charged by the private schools despite there being no regular classes, the Haryana government had issued orders directing such schools to only collect monthly tuition fee from only those who are capable of paying, and not demand other charges like building fund, maintenance fund, admission charges and computer charges in wake of the Covid-19 situation.
“…these directions have been issued under special circumstances which is being faced by the world at large due to the spread of Covid-19 pandemic due to which there is a slowdown in the economic activities,” the government had told the Punjab and Haryana High Court in its reply after the private schools challenged the order.
The private schools, however, have argued that the authorities cannot prevent them from charging the fee at enhanced rate. They claim that they have been put under grave financial constraints due to the orders.
National Independent School Alliance (NISA) president Kulbhushan Sharma said the private schools in Haryana have as many as six lakh staffers.
“Due to instructions of the government, we did not ask the students to deposit their fee for the past three months. And now the government is saying there is no need for school leaving certificates. The government must withdraw its directions related to school leaving certificates. If there is no condition of school leaving certificate, who will clear previous dues,” asked Sharma, adding that some of the private school owners were on the verge of going into depression.
Sharma said many students may move to the government schools without clearing their dues, which may further deepen the financial crisis being faced by private schools. “The schools in the villages and small towns won’t survive in this scenario,” said Sharma.
Haryana education minister Kanwar Pal Gujjar told The Indian Express that the private school owners had met him regarding the issue. “We are not against the private schools as they are also offering education to the students. We will look into the issues raised by them,” he said.
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