Post Mortem

ANPSA central appeals for direct benefit transfer to needy parents

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 6/18/2020 2:06:16 PM IST

 ANPSA is a federation of independent Private schools who come together as a family. We do not believe nor do we have any mandate to dictate to member schools on how to run their internal affairs. Every private school is an autonomous entity whose autonomy is respected. We believe that it is because of this autonomy that private schools are doing very well in Nagaland. 

Schools are already helping as many needy students as possible and although schools really want to help everyone, at this juncture private teachers and staff are the ones who need help the most as we are in a desperate situation. That is why no fee waivers can be given.

There may come a time very soon when schools may have to decide to remain open or even close down or use school complexes for other purposes to repay the loans and for survival. Some schools may even have the need to sell off school properties. We may even have to lay off many of our staff (God forbid) which may add to the unemployment problems in the State. This will be a great loss for the Students and the State. 

There are many students who already study in private schools either free or at concessional rates. But at this moment we are the ones who need help the most because of non payment of fees by even parents who can pay the fees. We are able to absorb non payment of fees by parents only because of the sacrifice of the teachers, staff and schools. 

No private enterprise may be helping the parents and students financially as much as private schools during this pandemic. You will not find discounts in grocery stores, or months of credit from anywhere without any assurance of payment. Instead of thanking us, we are seen as insensitive to the needs of the people.

With fee discounts, parents may save a few hundred rupees per month but teachers and staff will have to sacrifice thousands of rupees every month from their salaries. Many of these teachers and staff earn lesser than even the needy parents.

It may also be noted that many private school teachers earn less than daily wage earners. This is because private school fees in Nagaland are very low compared to other States. Teachers who were surviving on private tuitions are also suffering as private tuitions are no longer possible. The question today is not just about waiving of fees but more about whether teachers and school staff should get their salaries or not. 

Why schools are in a desperate situation: In Nagaland, almost all Private schools are run by people who are passionate for education with missionary zeal without any aid from the Government. Nor are they run by large Corporations as in many other States. Unlike even our neighboring States such as Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam etc., Private Schools in Nagaland are not aided by anyone. 

Private Schools are one of the enterprises that are working well in Nagaland, even comparable to the advanced States of the country. This is inspite of our school fees being one of the lowest in the country. Private Schools are second only to the Government in providing employment opportunities. We need to encourage the young generation to become educationists by becoming teachers or opening more private schools as good education is the only way to help our State. However at this moment, many teachers and people who are running schools are demoralized.

The financial situation of every school is different. One size does not fit all. There are schools running on deficits for years and there are schools with huge loans. There are only a countable number of schools which may be standing on its feet now after many decades of sacrifice without the need of financial aid from outside sources. These sacrifices are sometimes not seen by the public.

When there is unemployment or poverty problem in the society, the Government is best able to solve the problem and not private enterprises. Private enterprises have very limited capacity and today many have no capacity but rather need help themselves.

We cannot waive fees as many parents who can pay fees are also not paying and schools have a lot of added expenditure. Even with full fees, many schools are unable to pay staff salaries or meet the running expenditure.

There has also been added expenditure for schools because of online classes such as internet connections, purchase of computers and other equipment, arranging transportation for teachers, providing print outs to students, following safety norms etc.

With this pandemic, even after schools open there will be a lot of safety guidelines due to Covid-19, which will lead to increased running expenditure of schools, but schools have no means of increasing fees in mid year to meet these expenditures. This will be an added burden for schools.

School buses are not running but drivers and handymen have to be paid, Hostels are not running but staff need salaries, canteens are closed but staff need help, schools maybe closed but maintenance staff have to be paid. Many hostels also have to pay rent. They also do not have the option to use the hostel for other purposes as they are reserved for the children. 

It is because of all these financial uncertainties that survival of private schools is at stake.

Some solutions for helping needy parents: Solution 1. One solution for helping low income parents without affecting staff salary is for the Government to directly transfer money to the needy parents through Direct Benefit Transfer.

Guidelines for Direct Benefit Transfer may be issued by the Government. Government may identify low income parents and directly transfer a fixed amount to the Bank account of the low income parents for the education of their children.

Many of the Private School students in Nagaland are children of government servants who may be receiving salaries even at this time and they may not need help. Another large group may be the children of well to do parents who will not have a problem in paying a few hundreds or thousands in school fees.

We believe that the number of students who need help will be a few tens of thousands only. It will not be difficult for the Government to give them Direct Benefit Transfer of a few thousands, which will alleviate their suffering and save the private teachers and staff.

Solution 2: Government may give loans to Private Schools where the Government is the guarantor. But this is a much more complicated process as all schools are different with different fee structures, staff salaries and expenditures. Identifying how much to give to each school is a major problem. Also deciding how much fee waivers should be given for each school is another problem when there is uncertainty of how many parents will pay even the waived fees. Schools will also have to return these loans and without payment of fees by parents it is impossible to return the loans.

We believe Direct Benefit Transfer is the best solution to save parents, students, teachers, school staff, schools and education in our state. We also request all parents to kindly pay the school fees at the earliest. We thank all the parents who are coming forward to pay the school fees at this time. We look forward to a positive response from the Government. 

Nini Sekhose, President, ANPSA Central; Father Jacob Charalel, Vice President, ANPSA Central; Pheluopfelie, Sr. Advisor, ANPSA Central; Bithungo Kikon, Ex Officio Advisor, ANPSA Central; Rev. M Savi, Advisor, ANPSA Central; P.J. Nathan, General Secretary, ANPSA Central; Abalie Medoze, Jt. Secretary, ANPSA Central; Leneno Disong, Treasurer, ANPSA Central and Ashuli Apil, Publicity Secretary, ANPSA Central

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