Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu—With school administrations in Gelephu collecting money from students for non-academic activities, parents are questioning the transparency and sustainability of these initiatives.

Students are often required to contribute financially to school campus development activities, such as gardening, construction of footpaths, mani dungkhor (prayer wheels), and choeten (stupas), as well as the purchase of Choesham (altar) and air conditioner (AC) equipment.

Given that school administrations have no direct budget allocation from central agencies, parents allege that non-academic activities are initiated as part of their performance assessment (IWP) evaluations.

A former teacher in Gelephu admitted that it is a customary practice for schools to collect money linked with their IWP. “Some IWP parameters demand non-academic activities such as gardening, school beautification and decorating classrooms.”

Schools are supposed to focus on education that students require, rather than initiating non-academic activities that contribute to their performance assessment, says parents.

A parent said a school in Gelephu informed them about collecting funds to purchase a Choesham worth Nu 120,000 and four ACs. Meanwhile, another school was accused of collecting money at the beginning of the academic year for a bi-annual rimdro.

“Although the collections are intended for good initiatives, sustainability is a concern. For how long can parents afford to contribute, especially those who have more school-going children?” a parent said.

Another school was alleged to have collected Nu 725 in fees from each student but reflected only Nu 590 on the receipt. The parents question the transparency and auditing of accounts regarding such informal monetary collections.

“The school also failed to refund the security deposit of the students after their graduation from the school. This creates suspicion even though the school has formed its account committee to monitor budgets,” another parent said.

“The students have to purchase clothes for a one-time annual cultural show, and it is mandatory for each student to sell a ticket priced at Nu 100 to their family members. Additionally, children also have to pay Nu 45 for a school contact detail book every year, which contains the same information. Where are these funds going?” said another parent.

Some parents said collecting money for ACs was not an issue as it is hot in Gelephu and would help students learn better.

Principals rebutted that no collections are associated with their IWP assessment, and the minimal monetary collections were initiated solely for genuine purposes in close consultation with the parents.

One of the principals said that most schools lack proper infrastructure. “For instance, having sufficient AC is important to maintain a conducive learning environment and provide relief from the heat. But there is no budgetary provision for its maintenance and repair.”

“The annual fee structure, which has never been reviewed, is not even sufficient to provide the students with a cup of juice,” added the principal. “I believe that a small contribution from parents should not be an issue, as it is invested for a good cause.”

Regarding the parents’ allegations on fee collection for AC bills, the Gelephu officiating Thromde education officer said there is a provision in the government budget for the payment of electricity bills, including the operation of AC.

While the thromde education sector has not received any formal complaints regarding monetary collections by schools, he said that a coordination meeting would be conducted with school administrations to raise awareness of these matters.