There is a lot we need to learn from the coronavirus pandemic despite the widespread damage the virus is causing to human lives. We managed to set an example across the world in being able to battle coronavirus like no other countries could so far. This is mainly attributed to the unwavering support and guidance rendered by His Majesty The King. We must consider ourselves lucky to be born under such great leadership. Thousands of people received the kidu and EMI waiver and loan deferment for months. What more can we ask for during such difficult times that has directly or indirectly impacted each one of us.
However, despite such exemplary gestures by His Majesty The King and the government, all’s not well. The ground reality is different. As far as I am concerned, the kidu was granted with the wisdom that every citizen is affected and that this is the time we come together to help each other. Ideally, the EMI waiver and the loan deferment should trickle down and that is the whole intention of such monetary intervention.
How many people would have benefitted from rent reduction? Except for a few, a majority of the tenants haven’t benefitted any such concession of sorts. Besides, there are also house owners who are kidu beneficiaries themselves and some who have taken advantage of the interest waiver to repair/renovate their houses rather than helping tenants, some of whom are severely affected. Had the concession on rents been compulsory, most owners would simply opt out of it judging the current scenario.
The same applies for the private schools in Thimphu. It is disappointing that most schools decided upon a 15 percent discount on the second term fees that came as an order without any consultation with the parents. To make matters worse, some schools are yet to inform the parents of their decisions. More than two weeks after the government announced that the classes for lower grades would continue online, some private schools are still contemplating. The decision to give 15 percent on second term tuition fees is as announced by the Private School Association of Bhutan in June should the schools continue to remain closed. Assuming that your child’s tuition fee is Nu 50,000, as is the tuition fees in many private schools, a 15 percent concession on the second term fees works out to Nu 3,750. The first installment of Nu 25,000 is usually paid before the mid-term ends.
The scenario is no different this year with most parents obliged to pay with schools complaining of not being able to meet their overhead costs. The second term tuition fee is Nu 25,000 on which the 15 percent concession is provided. Like most parents, a discount of Nu 3,750 for a year having taken the role of teachers at home myself, is not at all fair. Even if a student attends tuition paying Nu 500 per month per subject, it works out to Nu 13,500 for nine months. Therefore, private schools need to think if the discount of Nu 3,750 is justified. Teachers send lessons online which needs to be taught to the children and then sent back to the teachers for assessment. The concession of Nu 3,750 is not enough to even cover internet bills let alone having to carry out equal responsibilities of a teacher. To make matters worse, teaching children at home is not without issues especially as a working mother.
In Bhutan, it is an irony that people start businesses not willing to take any risk but to make profit throughout. During difficult times, it is imperative that you also think of the money you made during good times. Every parent, no matter how rich or poor, works to earn and it is not easy. Therefore, it is important that private schools also rethink the decision.
In view of such issues, I feel that the monetary measures should be given only to those who are genuinely affected for it doesn’t serve the purpose. For instance, house owners who provide concession on the rents deserve it more rather than making it across the board. Similarly, private schools should be provided the interest waiver and deferment as per the amount of responsibility they shoulder and concession and the same must apply for those in the tourism industry.
If parents are not willing to pay, it is clear that the schools would happily lay off the teachers without much consideration. Taking an average student of 300 in a private school (day school) in Thimphu with 30 teachers including support staff. The fees, about Nu 50,000 on an average, collected for a year amounts to Nu 15M. Considering 25 teachers including support staff and their salary at Nu 25,000 a month, Nu 7.5M goes as salary followed by other overhead costs. The statistics doesn’t indicate bad business at all. The plight of the teachers in private schools is another issue. Except for a few, the starting salaries of teachers in private schools are not even Nu 15,000.
The kidu had been generous. As beneficiaries, we need to question ourselves whether we are even worthy of it, and if we are also doing our part as much as we express how grateful we are. We as Bhutanese can do better.
Contributed by Kinga D,