Many parents are still unable to pay their children’s school fees and are requesting concessions in the second year of the pandemic. Several school heads said this showed the extent of the financial crisis inflicted by the pandemic.
Conscientious parents, some of who have not defaulted on fees before, are now approaching schools either because they are yet to find a stable job after they lost employment or their businesses are yet to look up.
In at least one school, the number of fee relief applications is more this year compared to last year.
In many families, the sole earning member has died.
Many students lost their parents during the second wave of Covid.
Some families have had to spend a fortune on Covid treatment, a school headmaster said.
A former private bank executive walked into the office of a school principal last week requesting a waiver. Asked the reason, he said he hasn’t had a job for the past six months.
“It is embarrassing to tell anyone but it is difficult to continue paying the fees and so, I had to ask for a waiver,” the school principal quoted the father saying.
At another school, a junior school student’s father asked for more time to pay the fees because he had got a job about two months ago and was still struggling to make ends meet.
The pandemic has created a situation where people are uncertain about their jobs and a fresh surge in cases would only make things worse.
There are some sectors where the lull is acute.
For example, a parent who supplied stationery to schools and had around eight employees said he was barely managing to make ends meet.
Krishna Damani, trustee, South Point, said there was a significant number of anxious parents.
“Parents have approached the school for fee waivers. Some segments of society have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and there are businesses that are yet to reopen. We are giving waivers to people who could justify seeking it,” Damani said.
At Rammohan Mission High School, there are about 50 applications for waiver so far this year. There were around 40 last year.
“Last year, some parents managed with their savings but it is becoming difficult to tide over this crisis with the pandemic stretching for 18 months now,” said principal Sujoy Biswas.
“Even those who took loans last year cannot do so repeatedly,” he said.
A school is a microcosm of society with parents from different job profiles and businesses.
Jessica Gomes Surana, principal, Loreto Convent Entally, said that even though businesses were gradually reopening, not all of them can recover immediately.
“How many of us are spending on buying accessories like bags or shoes? So, naturally, these businesses are impacted,” Gomes Surana said.
She said the fee collection this year, six months into the session, has been poor.
“We have had meetings with parents trying to understand their situation. We found that some of them have been impacted and some are just about recovering and asking for more time,” she said.