Private schools, faced with financial difficulties, suspend online classes

The associations of private schools, National Private and Boarding Schools’ Association, Nepal (N-PABSAN) and Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation, Nepal (PABSON), have decided to discontinue their online classes from Thursday stating that they were not allowed to charge tuition fees to the students.

Issuing a joint statement on Wednesday, the two associations of private schools said fees were their only sources of income and they could not continue any academic activity after the government restricted them from collecting the fees.

In the statement, PABSON and NPABSON said they had appealed to the guardians to pay only tuition fees during the period of online classes. But after the government instructed the schools not to charge any fee even though a few guardians were ready to pay the tuition fee of the online classes, they were compelled to halt online classes and other academic activities.

Private schools have been operating online classes for their students since April. Rituraj Sapkota, chairperson of the N-PABSON, said that private schools were forced to shut all alternative academic activities after the government refused to allow them to collect fees from the students.

Along with the decision to halt online classes, private schools also decided to give unpaid leave to their teaching and non-teaching staff members.

Though the private schools’ teachers across the country are not getting salary even now, the associations formally announced unpaid leave for around 200,000 teachers across the country effective from Thursday.

Hom Kumar Thapa, chairperson of the Institutional Schools’ Teachers’ Union (ISTU), condemned private schools’ decision to send teachers and employees on unpaid leave. Thapa blamed that those associations decided to keep teachers unpaid without discussing with them.

He also stated that the decision of that association could also be harmful for themselves.

Prior to this, the parliamentary committee and the government had directed schools not to charge fees for distant learning during the period of lockdown.

The parliamentary committee on May 7 asked the Ministry of Education to direct the private schools not to charge fees and admit students until the situation returned to normal. The Students’ Unions and the guardians’ association had also asked the schools not to exert pressure on parents to pay fees amid the lockdown.

Though the government asked not to charge fees from guardians, some private schools were found charging fees to the guardians. Asked about that, Rituraj Sapkota, NPABSON chairperson, said taking fees in this time without government permission was illegal.

Deepak Sharma, spokesperson at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), said the government-run virtual classes through different modes would continue even though the private schools decided to discontinue their virtual classes.

“Therefore, all students can learn from the virtual classes run by the government through the radio, television, internet and other modes.”

Regarding the problem of private schools, the Ministry could not take a decision in this regard as the issue could be discussed at COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC), spokesperson Sharma said.