With schools closed proprietors and parents caught in school fee dilemma

Yangchen C Rinzin

With schools closed soon after the 2020 academic session began, private schools and their clients, parents, are ironing out issues related to school fees.

Private schools are worried about paying their faculty and other staff should the Covid-19 pandemic situation worsens in the country. They claim that schools are solely run on school fees collected and need the fees to pay the salary of the faculty.

Proprietors of private schools say that although the campus was closed, the lessons are continued where teachers were actively involved through e-learning and Google classes.  “This is why we must ensure that we pay the teachers because even they also have families to look after,” a proprietor said. “We cannot fire them. They have worked with dedication and we have to pay them until the situation improves.”

Although many schools are confident that they would be able to pay the faculty till May since they have already collected fees for the first half of the year, some are worried, as they are yet to receive the entire fee for the first instalment.

A proprietor in Thimphu said that there are parents who have not paid the first instalment, as schools were closed before they could collect. The school has asked for fees from them.    

Most private schools collect fees in two instalments while a few collect in three instalments with the option to pay on a monthly basis.

Some parents, however, disagree on the grounds that with schools closed, there is no reason why they should pay the fees.

Parents shared that there was no need to pay the fees when there are no classes. Some parents Kuensel spoke to say that it would be a loss for them if the government decides to let all the students repeat the same class next year if the Covid-19 situation does not improve.

A parent in Thimphu said that while they understand the situation, schools should be considerate and offer concession or 50 percent of the fees.

“With the schools closed, there are no other expenditure or utility bills to pay so, the school must consider,” a parent in Gelephu said. Another said that private schools have made enough money during good times and should be able to pay their faculty if they are considerate about their faculty.

Meanwhile, some schools have decided to offer parents affected directly by the Covid-19 pandemic to pay in multiple instalments and in smaller amounts. A few schools are also discussing how to collect the fees or if they should offer discounts.

A proprietor in Samdrupjongkhar said that they have not been able to ask parents for fees but are worried about how to pay the teachers.

“Without any options, we have requested them to apply for the Kidu in case the situation doesn’t improve. Our aim for keeping teachers engaged was to ensure students do not lose a year and we worked hard on the online classes.”

One proprietor said that from the economy’s point of view, many schools would last only for a few months and then shut down entirely if fees are not paid. “If they want, they can deregister from online classes and repeat the class in 2021.”

However, some parents shared that teachers were doing a great job by engaging their children despite a few challenges and that fees should be paid, as long as online classes are provided.

“Some have even gone to the extent of making video lessons and sharing with the children. Schools have to pay teachers, and it’s because of the circumstances that forced the schools to close.”

Education ministry official said that they would leave it to the schools to decide on the fees. “They’ve to pay teachers so school fees are important.”

Meanwhile, there is no problem for classes XI and XII, as the education ministry bears the school fees through a scholarship scheme. However, the ministry has paid only for class XII as of now, and the fees for class XI are yet to be released.