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COVID-19 Scourge: Private Schools In Odisha Struggling For Survival

Bhubaneswar: COVID-19 pandemic has spared none, irrespective of sector, size, industry and age. In these incredibly challenging times, education sector is sailing in rough seas to deliver uninterrupted and quality education to children.

The situation of private schools is deteriorating day in and day out. The private schooling sector is looking up to the stakeholders’ (parents, children and the Government) support to survive through the crisis.

The article below delves into the situation facing private schools in Odisha in the wake of novel Coronavirus pandemic.

Odisha ranks way beyond other States in terms of private schooling across the country. The total number of students going to schools in Odisha is about 60 lakh out of which around 4.5 lakh children go to private schools, approximately 7 to 8 per cent. From the students who go to private schools, around 1.5 lakh children go to English medium schools.

The country average of children going to private schools is around 50 per cent. In Maharashtra 74% children go to private schools while in Delhi it is 62% and UP 64%. In Goa 82 per cent of children go to private schools, highest in the country. Jharkhand with 12 per cent, is also ahead of Odisha. These figures are as per the Central Square Foundation (CSF) 2020 report.

“Unless proactive steps are taken even this 7% number will further go down and Odisha will be left with only Government schools. I urge to create awareness and save private schools,” a senior educationist based in Bhubaneswar said. The latest Education policy of the Central Government suggests that all schools, both Government and private should thrive. The COVID-19 impact on private schools has been really bad. If proper support is not offered by stakeholders in Odisha, situation will worsen further, he added.

The situation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic followed by successive lockdowns and shutdown is very alarming. In this perspective, institutions which are offering quality education need support and the Government should come forward to save the private schools, the former Pricipal of a private school here said.

There are reports from across the country where private schools are battling for survival. A report published on Times of India revealed that around 1,000 schools in Ahmedabad are on the verge of closure. With around 50 per cent of private schools suffering from a hiatus / disruption in fees collection, days are not very far when a number of good schools in Odisha will be force-close operation.

“There is a general conception that schools do not incur expenses when they are not operating or during holidays. However, during such periods, we can only save 10 to 15 per cent of our regular expenses, which includes the electricity bill. We pay salaries to teachers, maintain the premises and repay loans etc. For private schools the sole source of income is fees which we collect from the students. If that is affected, we are in a spot of bother,” a senior executive of a reputed school here said.

Another leading educationist said that private schools play an integral role in nurturing talents. While other sectors receive assistance and boost in many forms, the private schools are left to sustain on their own. “It is high time, the State Government should think of including the private schools / private sector education in Odisha’s Ease of Doing Business charter.”

The management of a couple of schools here are happy that Odisha has so far not interfered with the operation of private schools. At the same time, they believe that the Government should come up with a policy encouraging more private schools to thrive and deliver quality education. “Subsidies, relaxation in taxes and some form of regulation in collection of fees should also be given a serious thought to save the private schools in Odisha,” they added.

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