Schools take loans as offline classes for all grades start
Some owners have put up personal assets as collateral for funds to upgrade infrastructure; others have borrowed from family and friends
With COVID-19 on the decline and ‘normal’ life slowly resuming, schools are struggling with inadequate teaching staff and infrastructure required to maintain social distancing and other safety precautions. Offline classes for all grades are scheduled to commence on October 25, and though many private schools have delayed the resumption of primary sections, the problem has become all the more urgent. Many school managements have decided to take loans as they are unable to increase fees.
“We need to invest in infrastructure upgrades to ensure that students can return to classrooms safely without fear of cluster outbreaks,” said school principals. This means that they have to construct more toilets, create more space, and hire more staff. As a result of this, school managements have said that they need funds in the range of ₹10 lakh to ₹70 lakh.
Lokesh Talikatte, State unit president of the Recognised Unaided Private Schools’ Association, Karnataka, said schools were forced to resort to such measures as the State Government had said that they could not increase the fees this academic year in view of the pandemic.
In the 2020–21 academic year, schools were allowed to collect only 70% of tuition fees. They were also not allowed to charge fees under any other subheads.
“Last academic year, we had cut the salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff. But with the commencement of offline classes our staff are not willing to accept any salary cuts,” said Mr. Talikatte.
Sumanth Narayan, founder of Shanthinikethana School, said they had decided to take an overdraft from financial institutions to restart their school transport and also invest in building repairs and maintenance. “It is almost like starting a new school altogether. We plan to reopen lower primary classes in the second week of November,” he said.
Until now, schools with limited space were able to hold classes for students in higher grades in small batches. But with primary sections from standards I to V set to resume physical classes, this is no longer an option.
Dinesh Kumar G.D., founder of the Shantiniketan Central School in Chikkamagaluru, said he had borrowed around ₹15 lakh from friends and family members as banks were not willing to give schools loans. “Banks are seeing us incur financial losses and do not want to give us loans as they have no guarantee of repayment,” he said.
Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary, Management of Independent CBSE Schools Association, said many management members of mid-sized schools were putting their personal assets as collateral.
“Schools that have to pay rents and EMIs on their transport and buildings are in a huge mess. Management members are running from pillar to post to get some finances,” he said.