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‘Budget schools’ in dire straits

85% of private schools are mired in debts, even Amma Vodi amounts not being remitted for school fee, they say

The relief of the Ammavodi Scheme coming to the rescue of private schools and strengthening them in the State has died down with the majority of the school managements not getting the fee from students despite their parents getting help from the State government. Further, the COVID-19 induced lockdown in March 2020 and then during the second wave in April 2021 deprived the managements of the meagre income they usually get in March/April every year.

The common perception of private schools among people is that of affluent managements capable of withstanding any kind of adversity, but according to representatives of such managements, 93% of the 14,000 schools in the State can be categorised as ‘budget schools’ and the rest as ‘corporate schools’.

The recent suicide by the correspondent couple of a private school in Kurnool district is a testimony to the travails of the people running small private schools with no support from the government or any corporate entity. While 85% of private schools are mired in debts, the managements feel soft loans like those given to the MSME sector could help them stay afloat.

Many schools shut

If 56 schools out of 1,288 private ones in Anantapur district got closed during the pandemic, close to 50 were shut down in Kurnool district out of 1,150. The two waves of the COVID-19 have literally broken the back of the majority of private schools in the budget category," opines Private Unaided Schools Management Association joint secretary Srinivas Reddy. While 18 correspondents of private schools in Kurnool died due to the COVID-19 impact, 45 died in Anantapur district.

"Soon after the Ammavodi amount was deposited in the accounts of the mothers of students, they did not pay the school fee but spent it for family purposes. With only 40-50% of students paying the school fee, payment of salaries to teachers became difficult and many of them did not get paid," says K. Pulla Reddy, president of the Anantapur chapter of the association.

The correspondent of a private school in Anantapur, Penikalla Pavan Kumar tells The Hindu that schools did not get any concession on rentals except for a few for a very brief period. The power charges had to be paid and municipal taxes were not waived. "The only concession we got is with regard to school bus tax, but we had to spend large amounts in getting the vehicles ready after keeping them idle for one and a half years," he says.