New Delhi: After 22 years, New SD Public School at Mohan Garden has decided to down its shutters. As have Gyandeep Vidya Mandir School in Madanpur Khadar in southeast Delhi and Oxford Public School in Jagatpuri, east Delhi, both after running for 18 years. The three were budget private schools, providing English medium education at affordable charges, but were now finding it difficult to collect fees with Covid-19 hitting parents’ incomes to add to no new admissions and their students flocking to the government institutions.
At Gyandeep Vidya Mandir, which closed on April 1, a notice said, “The school management is compelled to take this decision as the students are not paying fees for over a year and teachers are also not cooperating.” A solitary guard now keeps an eye on the 17,000 sq ft school complex.
The notice was a surprise for the teachers, who claimed not to have been paid salaries for 2020 despite conducting online classes. After the lockdown last year, the number of students slid to less than 100, among them a few students from the economically weaker sections. Eight teachers moved Delhi High Court against the school management to get their pending salaries.
Teacher Mohammad Sijjil, 28, said, “I need to be paid my salary for one year and gratuity for working more than five years. The owners of the school don’t understand the financial stress we are facing.” Some teachers who have worked in the school for the past 15 years now stare at an uncertain future.
More worried are parents like autorickshaw driver Azama, whose daughter studied in Class III as an EWS student. “I wanted her to get a good English education and so I admitted her to this school. I did not want her to go to a government school. I haven’t taken the transfer certificate yet,” said Azama.
R G Mehra, member of the school management, said, “The matter is sub-judice. Enquiry proceedings have been initiated against the teachers and they can be charge-sheeted soon. The number of students has fallen from 200 in February 2020 to around 37. It’s impossible to run a school for a total fee collection of around Rs 25,000 a month. Most parents are not paying the fees, so how is it possible to run such an establishment?”
At New SD Public School too, student strength came down from 600 in 2019 to almost negligible now. The school’s Sanjay Agarwal said, “We have told the state government to either take over the school or we will shut it down. We can’t even pay the security guards.” R K Uppal, manager of Oxford Public School, claimed to have just 50 on the rolls now.
In these schools, the monthly fees range from Rs 400 to Rs 1,500. After Class VIII, students usually shift to government schools. But the three are not the only affordable institutions affected by the pandemic. Chandrakant Singh, national general secretary, Private Land Public School’s Trust, an association of budget schools, said, “Every day, school owners are asking us about the process to close down or if any help is available.” Rajesh Gupta, who runs Surya Model School and Green Gold Model School in Najafgarh, said, “Yes, it’s becoming very difficult for us. Our management committee is meeting soon to decide what we should do.”