Education ministry buckles under pressure from private schools on issue of charging tuition feesAfter schools threatened to discontinue virtual classes, the ministry has withdrawn its earlier directive that prohibited schools from charging fees during the lockdown period.
The government has backpedalled from its earlier decision to bar private schools from charging tuition fees during the lockdown period after private school operators threatened to discontinue the online classes.
Earlier, the Ministry of Education had announced that parents would not have to pay for their children’s tuition until the lockdown is over. However, following the threat from private schools to stop the virtual classes, the ministry has agreed to allow them to collect fees from parents.
Meanwhile, the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation, Nepal (PABSON) and the National Private and Boarding Schools Association (NPABSAN), two umbrella bodies of private schools, have withdrawn their plan to discontinue the virtual classes after the education ministry acquiesced to their demand.
Minister for Education Giriraj Mani Pokharel has agreed to take the proposal to the Cabinet for approval.
“Pokharel has asked us to wait for a couple of days for a formal decision,” Ritu Raj Sapkota, chairperson of NPABSAN, told the Post on Monday. Against the directives from a parliamentary committee and the government, the two associations of the private schools on June 28 had asked the parents to clear the pending tuition fees.
The schools had asked for the payment of fees for the month of Chaitra (March/April) and the following months. The two school associations had said that as tuition money is their only source of income, they have no option but to charge the fees.
They had also urged parents to get their wards registered for the new academic year, though the ministry had said that schools cannot call for new admission amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ministry had then directed private schools to refrain from charging tuition fees and the schools, in response, had threatened to discontinue the online classes.
The ultimatum from school operators has led the education ministry to withdraw its directive.
“The dialogue is ongoing. We will find out a meeting point soon,” Deepak Sharma, spokesperson at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, said.
Private schools have submitted a proposal to the ministry with the recommendation of categorising the parents based on their income and charging them fees accordingly.
Sapkota, the chairperson of NPABSAN, said they would agree even if they are allowed to charge half of the fee now and the remaining amount after the situation normalises.
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 scheme for schools struggling to pay their teachers and cover other costs.
The associations of the guardian and student unions had been asking private school operators not to build any pressure on parents to pay the fee at the time of crisis.
After the education ministry withdrew its directive, the guardian association has called on its members not to pay the schools. The student unions, meanwhile, have warned of “negative consequences” if any school is found forcing parents to pay their children’s tuition.
Experts on the field of education have said the inconsistency on the part of the education ministry has led to the problem. They said the ministry should not make any announcement if it cannot implement it.
“If the education ministry had to backtrack it should have left the parents and the schools to decide on the fees,” Binay Kusiyait, a professor at Tribhuvan University, who has done several researches on the school education system, told the Post.