The Maharashtra English Schools Trustees Association (MESTA) has requested Ms. Varsha Gaikwad, Education Minister, to immediately withdraw the ban on collection of school fees by private school operators so that the teaching and support staff can be paid their salaries.

MESTA stated in the official release that most of the teaching and non-teaching staff of private schools in the state haven’t been paid or would go unpaid from this month onwards as they are heavily dependent on fee collections. Sanjay Patil, State President, MESTA has urged the education minister to withdraw the circular issued on March 30 preventing private schools from collecting fees until the completion of lockdown.

The schools body mentioned that the teaching and non-teaching staff across the state fear for their livelihood and survival. This comes when Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mentioned that all establishments should refrain from retrenching staff. MESTA noted despite no money in the coffers, teachers from most of the private schools have been teaching through online and apply innovative techniques to reach out to students. Teachers say they are looking at an uncertain future as they are unsure when the moratorium will be lifted.

The Economic Survey of Maharashtra data tabled in 2018 reveals that there were 22,477 private unaided schools in the State - a rise of over 111 per cent since 2013-14. There are 18,000 trustee members and 80,000 teachers across 37 districts associated with MESTA. Across states, chief ministers have imposed similar restrictions on collecting fees citing difficulty among parents to cough up the amount due to job losses and salary cuts. This made it difficult for schools to make payments to over two crore teaching and non-teaching staff across five lakh private schools, the association believes.

. “We have proposed a four-point program to the education minister in our petition which includes payment of fees on a monthly basis rather than quarterly, as was the practice earlier. We also urge the government to support us in our endeavor as this would ensure continuity of academics,” said Sanjay Patil.

He added that while education was under the priority lending sector, loan benefits should also be extended to the education sector in this crisis situation. “Interest-free loans should be made available for parents to pay school fees and to schools to pay recurring costs such as salaries, overheads, and capital expenditures,” he said.

Teachers from various states including Maharashtra have already started campaigning on various online platforms through petitions, citing domestic hardships and fearing schools going bankrupt.