As education authorities in Karnataka prepare for the 2021-’22 academic year, which begins on June 15, teachers in private unaided schools are still waiting for the state government to approve a COVID-19 relief package for them.
Thousands of teachers across the state temporarily lost their jobs or had their salaries cut as the pandemic-induced lockdowns severely hit schools’ revenues, forcing managements and unions to knock on the government’s doors. The government failed to offer them any relief package during the first lockdown last year. This year too the authorities are facing a lack of funds.
Education Minister Suresh Kumar initially asked government teachers to contribute part of their salary towards the relief package. However, they said profit-oriented institutions should not have to depend on government bailouts.
The Karnataka State Primary School Teachers’ Association even adopted a resolution deciding not to donate even one day’s salary.
“A relief package for unaided private school teachers should not come at the cost of burdening government school teachers,” said Kotresh Hiremath, a schoolteacher in Raichur district.
The BS Yeddyurappa-led government last year froze dearness allowance hike for state employees till June 2021, following a similar move by the Centre.
Teachers’ associations and managements have also demanded that they be included in the priority list for vaccination and asked the government to pass an order mandating parents to pay a certain portion of fees at the start of the academic year.
They also want the government to put an evaluation system in place for classes 1-9 instead of promoting students to the next class without any assessment.
“While the government agreed to vaccinate teachers on a priority basis, the rest of the demands still remain unfulfilled,” said D Shashi Kumar, general secretary, Karnataka Associated Management of English Medium Schools (KAMS). “Governments over the years collected money towards the teachers’ welfare fund. Let them put that to use and help unaided school teachers.”
Suresh Kumar has also met the CM along with a delegation from the graduates and teachers’ constituency. The CM is said to have asked them to look for funds from within the department and not seek additional money.
The Karnataka High Court in March prevented schools from taking coercive action against parents and stopped the government from forcing the hand of private schools over fee payment.
KAMS in a submission to the court said private unaided education institutions in the state incurred a loss of ₹2,524 crore and nearly ₹48 crore worth of fee amount were pending. Their appeal for revision of this order is pending before the Court.
“Even if we are not conducting offline classes, we still have incur expenses towards fixed assets and pay the teachers. So we need money to run the institutions. Even conducting online classes has a certain cost,” Shashi Kumar added.
According to the survey conducted by the association, which has 3,655 member schools, enrolment for the year 2020-21 fell by 30 per cent, which hurt their income potential.