Future of Education at Stake
School fees have been a hot topic of discussion among intellectuals as well as common people ever since the Covid-19 outbreak last year forced educational institutions to close. Some argue that private schools and colleges should waive the fees considering the cut in administrative costs and other expenses. In Nagaland, a few civil society organisations have requested private educational institutions in the state to waive fees as physical classroom learning has been disrupted since March 2020. However, school administrations have a different story to tell. They have reasoned that schools are continuing online classes and teachers can’t be deprived of their salaries. The All Nagaland Private Schools’ Association said in its representation to the chief minister of the state that many private schools are facing huge financial problems and could be forced to close down permanently; properties sold or facilities used for other purposes if the situation doesn’t improve even next year. It also said that most schools in the state were being considerate during this hard time by giving concessions to the economically poor and needy students. It lamented that even people who were in the position to pay fees were refusing to do so, which is pushing schools to the edge of the precipice. Well, the argument on whether or not to waive school fees will continue till physical classes resume. But there is more to this argument than meets the eye. It is necessary to dissect the issue and find a middle path to save both schools and students from poor families.
A closer look at the education system in the state tells that contribution of private schools in providing education is unparalleled. Unlike most government schools that are infested by the menace of proxy teaching practice, private educational institutions have dedicated teachers who are always there to attend to the needs of the students. These teachers, who are paid several times lower than their counterparts in government sector, can’t be deprived of their salaries. They have been trying to mitigate the learning loss of students through online classes though it may not be as effective as classroom learning. Will these teachers continue to teach if they aren’t paid or their salaries cut? If the answer is a NO, it will be a huge loss to educational institutions as well as the society. Wings of schools will be clipped if experienced teachers leave and the consequences will be passed on to the society when normal classes begin. Considering the plight of private educational institutions as well as the citizens, school administrations should be allowed to use their discretion on whom to help and on waiving of fees as well, but they should continue to assist needy students. Families that are in the position to pay fees should do so. Societies and individuals too can mitigate the financial problems of private schools through donations. Our society can’t afford to lose private schools and the teachers. It will be detrimental to the future of students and the growth of the state.