Govt. is yet to work out on the amount

Yangchen C Rinzin

The government has provisioned budget to pay private higher secondary schools’ tuition fees and boarder fees for Class XI students on government scholarship, according to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

However, the Prime Minister told Kuensel that the government has not yet decided if the boarding fees should be paid in full or only a certain percent of the total fee.

All 21 private schools are still waiting for the education ministry to pay the tuition and boarding fees for Class XI following the school closure. Proprietors had expressed that with schools closed, the ministry could release the fees by adjusting the stipend from April to meet the salary of teachers and staff.

Although the ministry has paid the tuition fee for the first term for day scholars, it has not yet paid the first term fee for boarding schools. The second instalment is supposed to be paid in July. The government pays Nu 40,000 per child for day scholars and Nu 70,000 for boarding students in two instalments.

“There is no doubt we will pay the fees, and we’ll do the calculation soon to see how many portions of the fee goes for the hostel expenditure,” Lyonchhen said. “But we’ll definitely pay the fees, and I personally feel there should be some negotiation in this.”

This year, the 21 higher secondary private schools were supposed to receive 2,138 students. However, before the enrollment could complete, schools were closed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 Lyonchhen said that the government pay Nu 70,000 for boarding fee, so it is important to see how much of this fee is actually spent on expenses like building rental, lease, staff salaries, mess, cooks’ salary, and utility bills, among others.

“It would not be fair not to pay the fees just because the schools remained closed. We cannot say that we’ll not pay the fee since there was no mess expense. This is wrong,” Lyonchhen said.

Lyonchhen added that if the government decides not to pay the fees, then where will the government send the students to when schools reopen because schools will reopen even if it is not sure when.

Lyonchhen said that there was no reason for the government not to pay the fees, as long as the students sponsored by the government are enrolled in the private schools unless the government decides to withdraw these students.

“If I don’t pay and what if the schools refuse to take students when school reopens, I can’t let this happen,” Lyonchhen said, adding the government understands that private schools have to pay other expenses and meet teachers’ salary.

Meanwhile, National Council Member of Punakha Lhaki Dolma also raised the issue and questioned the finance minister if the government was going to pay the private schools during the budget deliberation last week.

Lhaki Dolma said that although it was mentioned in the National Budget Financial Year (FY) 2020-2021 that a total of 5,176 students have benefitted from the government scholarship, it was not clear if there was a budget allocated for the fee.

According to the National Budget FY, a total of Nu 12,016 million has been allocated for the education sector, but the report does not mention if the fee would be adjusted from the same budget.

Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that although it is not mentioned in the report, there is a budget for the private schools’ fee as per the plan.

“There will be no issue on the government sponsored fees. The finance and education ministry with the Prime Minister’s Office will discuss the issue soon,” he said.