School fees: The unsalaried feel the pinch

Morung Express News
Dimapur | June 11 

The economic effect of the lockdown has been wide-ranging. From established corporate powerhouses down to the humble roadside hawker in the unorganized sector, the blow has been all too glaring. 

The government has relaxed the lockdown measures but it continues to be a struggle for one category– small business owners, their employees and daily wagers with school going children. 

Making ends meet has been one, but the biggest worry for this category of the populace has been school fees. 

While some state governments have made calls to reduce or waive school charges during the lockdown, Mizoram has been an exception with private schools in the state reducing fees by 50 percent. 

Parents here also feel that the private schools should also reduce fees considering the plight of poor families. 

According to one such parent, everyone should sacrifice a little bit in these trying times.  “I feel that in addition to cutting miscellaneous charges, tuition fees should also be reduced. I understand teachers need to be paid but there also many unsalaried parents, who have lost their only means of income due the pandemic. I feel everyone should make little sacrifices for the society to stand together,” said the mother of two. She added that as a single parent, she is already feeling the pinch and wondered how she will manage in the coming months. 

A couple, who runs a small shop in Kohima, has lost their only source of income since the lockdown. With bills to pay and a shop not allowed to reopen till date, they said that they have pending school fees, house and shop rent and a bank loan.  

With many other parents like them struggling, another parent held that there have been no concessions from the schools. If not tuition fee, one parent was of the opinion that the school administrators should chalk up measures to reimburse the miscellaneous charges like sports fees “as there won’t be any expenses for that until schools reopen.”

“We have already paid for ‘tiffin’ and stationery fees for the entire academic year. On top of that, the school principal is insisting on clearing second (fee) installment,” commented another, while adding, “When landlords are giving (house) rent concessions, why can’t the school owners.”


Easier said…
At the other side of the fence, the principal of a private school in Dimapur said that reducing schooling charges is easier said than done. 

He asked, “Who will pay the teachers if schools start cutting fees?” He maintained that it would be harsh on the private schools and its teachers unless there are special measures (from the government). 

According to him, many of the private schools are charging minimal fees and also providing expense-free education to students, who come from poor financial background. 

While stating that cutting a certain amount for one month was all his school could afford, it meant losing a sizeable amount as teachers still need to be paid. 

He said that private school teachers are an underpaid lot and reducing fees translates into cutting their already small salary. 

“There is no one to fight for the welfare of private school teachers. In many ways, they are underpaid. Aside from the salary, they have no financial security and other incentives,'' he said.