Private schools threaten to discontinue online classes if they are not allowed to charge tuition feesThe Ministry of Education has asked them to come with recommendations to resolve the issue.
Private school operators have threatened to discontinue the online classes if they are not allowed to raise tuition fees.
Two associations of private schools have said, as the monthly tuition fees are their only source of income, they have no option but to charge the students.
Despite directives from a parliamentary committee and the government not to charge students during the lockdown period, the associations of private schools on Sunday had asked the parents to clear their pending fees.
The Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation, Nepal and the National Private and Boarding Schools Association, Nepal, had on Sunday issued a joint statement requesting for the payment of fees for the month of Chaitra (March/April) and the following period saying that private schools were struggling to keep up. They had also urged parents to be present at schools and get their wards registered for the new academic year, though the Ministry of Education had said that schools cannot call for new admission amid the pandemic, nor can force parents to pay the tuition fees.
The government has eased the lockdown since June 11 and allowed the operation of essential services, but not the education sector.
Private schools say as they have already started alternative modes of instruction, they expect payment. The government on March 24 had imposed a nationwide lockdown as a measure to contain the spread of Covid-19. All the schools and colleges have since been shut.
“We will be forced to close if we don't raise the fees. The government must give an alternative if it bars us from charging the fees,” Rituraj Sapkota, chairperson of the N-Pabsan, told the Post.
A month after the lockdown, the government had asked the schools to waive off the tuition fees for a month. The government had also announced a soft loan if the schools were struggling with a shortage of funds to pay their teachers and cover other costs.
“Private schools will not charge their students for the months of Chaitra or Baisakh, except for boarding fees,” Finance Minister Yubraj Khatiwada, also the government’s spokesperson, had said at a regular press briefing on April 29. “The government will provide a soft loan to a school if it has problems managing its expenses.”
The decision to waive school fees was part of the government's relief package to households hit hard by the restrictions. The private schools, however, seem reluctant to follow the directives.
Sapkota said though the government announced the soft loan, it hasn’t made clear on the modality of the loan scheme. And it is unclear how long the lockdown is going to last, he said. The education ministry has held two rounds of meetings with the private school operators and has asked the private schools to come up with suggestions to resolve the problem.
Along with the ministry, the Education and Health Committee of Parliament on May 7 had also directed the schools not to admit students and charge tuition fees until the situation returns to normal. It asked the Ministry of Education to ensure that private academic institutions follow the directive.
Tika Ram Puri, chairperson of Pabson, said they are planning to charge only to those parents who can pay the tuition fees immediately and they were preparing a proposal to submit it to the ministry.
“The government and parents should understand our situation. We cannot pay our teachers and bear other costs if we don't raise the fees,” he told the Post.
The guardian association and the students’ unions have asked the private schools not to build any pressure on the parents to pay the fees. They have also asked the parents to defy the demand of the private schools saying they are creating undue burden on the people who are already hit hard by the pandemic.