Yangchen C Rinzin

Private higher secondary schools are yet to receive a response from the education ministry if it would pay the tuition fees for Class XI students on government scholarships. The schools are also waiting for the ministry to pay the boarding fees.

This year, the 21 higher secondary private schools were supposed to receive 2,138 students after the government absorbed more than 9,000 students in the public higher secondary schools.

However, before the enrollment could complete, the schools were closed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ministry has made the payment for the first instalment, which is Nu 20,000 each for class XI students.

Private school representatives during a meeting with the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Monday said that it was unclear if they would get the second instalment because schools remained closed.

There are a few schools that are yet to receive the full amount of the first instalment so, the private schools requested the government’s support and pay the full instalment and on time. The second instalment is supposed to be paid in July.

The boarding schools have also not received the first instalment of boarding fees.

The government pays Nu 40,000 per child for day scholars and Nu 70,000 for boarding students in two instalments.

The fee was increased at the beginning of this year with the condition schools would increase teachers’ salary. Day schools were supposed to increase staff salary by Nu 5,000 and boarding schools by Nu 10,000.

A representative from the Private Schools Association of Bhutan (PSAB) said that ministry should now take a stand whether they would pay the boarding fees or not and how do they plan to pay boarding fees.

As school reopening remains uncertain, the PSAB decided to request the government for its support so that the schools can meet their expenses and pay staff. “The payment entirely depends on school fees,” a representative said.

“If they decide to pay we should know when. This is because at least the fees would help us keep running the schools and meet other expenditure,” a private school principal said.

Another said it was time the ministry decided and give a written assurance that it will pay the fees even if it means some readjustments in payment.

“What if we spend from our savings and later the ministry refuses to pay claiming the schools have remained closed? If they decide then it would at least help us decide on utilising the available resources,” a proprietor said.

PSAB representatives said that while they understand the hostels have remained closed, the ministry could release the fees by adjusting the stipend from April.

“This means the ministry can forgo the payment of feeding stipend but pay based on other expenditures for non-teaching staff like cooks,” a principal said. “Because the campuses were closed doesn’t mean that there was no expenditure like operation expenses, utility bills and lease payment.”

Without payment, staff salary could not be increased mainly for boarding schools, PSAB members said. If this payment was made, the schools plan to adjust with 60-70 percent of staff salary.

However, the ministry has made the full payment for Class XII for both day scholars and boarding schools.

The private schools have also decided to give concession or waive the fees of students studying on self-finance or privately sponsored students if they are directly affected by the Covid-19.

Meanwhile, an official from the education ministry said that the ministry has paid fees to all the 21 private schools for Class XI.

The official said that since there were issues with the list of students submitted by the schools, the ministry is working on the remaining payment of about 217 students in different schools.

For instance, the record of a student showed that he had enrolled in two different schools so the ministry is working on to sort the final list.

The official said that the payment for this would be made soon. The ministry still has the budget to make the payment for the second instalment.

However, the education ministry is still undecided on whether the ministry should pay the fee for boarding students, as the students had not yet joined the schools.

“The ministry is still discussing the boarding fees issue.”