New Delhi: Most of the low-budget private schools have not paid salaries to their employees during the pandemic lockdown period, making them the worst sufferers of the Covid pandemic. Media reports of a private play school principal in Ranchi, Jharkhand, selling vegetables at his village market, a Hindi PhD scholar running a milk booth, and a Masters in Education working on his farmland in the wake of the Covid pandemic, reveal the seriousness of Covid lockdowns’ impact on private school teachers’ livelihood till now.
In general terms, low-budget private schools refer to those educational institutions which charge between Rs.500-Rs.2000 per month from enrolled students. In India, there are roughly 4 lakh such private schools which employ approximately eight million teaching and non-teaching staff.
The Sunday Guardian tried to talk to them to know how the Covid pandemic affected the livelihood of the low-budget private school teachers who were the worst sufferers. In big metro cities, top private schools managed to collect fees from the students, as most of them belong to the rich and affluent class, while in semi-urban and rural areas, the scene was quite different. Interaction with school teachers and management led us to know the actual suffering of private school staff. Laxmikant Singh, 47, a gold medalist in English literature used to teach class eight and nine in Hellens Public School, Muzaffarpur, Bihar, till February last year. He has not got any salary for the sixteen month of Covid closure. “The administration has not paid me a single paisa for that period. All the 39 teachers of the school were told that we would be paid after the school reopened, but it didn’t happened,” he said.
Satish Singh, 39, taught English class 10 students at the Brilliant Public School, Patna, for a salary of Rs 18,000 a month before the pandemic. He has been getting 40% of his salary for the last three months as the school has opened. “The situation is pathetic, I have to live on my daughter’s government salary for seven months,” he said. Narendra Shahi, 58, is the vice-principal of Little Flower School, Patna, which had 900 pupils on the rolls, till March last year. He didn’t get the salary during the 15-month closure due to the pandemic. He has been getting 50% of his salary now. “Our school management is not able to pay most of the employees any salary, during the pandemic closure period,” he said. “Most of the low-income private schools are going through a similar phase,” he added. There has been a perception that private schools are high flying, but the reality is that the majority of these schools are on the brink of closure due to economic limitations. Only permanent employees of reputed schools like the Dayanand Anglo-vadik (DAV) school and Delhi Public School (DPS) chain get a full salary.
A regional director level official of a top public school managing committee, based in Patna, said, “The management gave full salary to roughly 4,000 permanent staff across our schools in the 55 districts of Bihar-Jharkhand from the institutional savings like fixed deposits. That period between March 2020-July 2021 was very tough as the schools were closed and hardly 30% of students paid the fees to us. We anyhow paid the teachers to survive that worst phase. Now things are getting back on track somehow,” he added.