Thousands of private school teachers, non-teaching staff and the school management members took to the streets on Tuesday as a mark of protest against the government order pertaining to reduction of fees. The city’s Anand Roa Circle flyover was completely blocked as they marched from the city railway station towards Freedom Park holding posters and banners.
On January 29, the State government had arrived at a decision asking all schools to charge only 70% of the tuition fees, after it met with all stakeholders including parents and school managements in order to give some financial relief amidst the pandemic.
However, the 30% reduction was not accepted by many associations who claimed that it would have a cascading effect including the salaries of their staff. “They are saying it’s 30% but in reality it is more than 60% and not just this, we had asked for grants under 371(J) and RTE but have got nothing. We had put forth our suggestions but none of those were considered, so we have no option but to stage a protest. We will compensate for this loss of school day by conducting extra classes,” said D Shashi Kumar, President of Associated Management of Primary & Secondary schools in Karnataka (KAMS).
Holding a huge rally amid growing numbers of covid positive cases was another cause of concern. “We have no choice but to gather here like this. The government teachers have been getting salaries but many of us have lost jobs and even took pay cuts. This fee reduction is hurting us more than Covid-19. If this helps the government to take note, then so be it,” said another teacher from Thyagaraj School, Bidadi.
Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar later met with the protestors at Freedom Park and assured them that another round of talks with all stakeholders would be undertaken. “I have seen how some schools are treating students. We saw the case of a student who was driven to commit suicide. Similarly, parents are also suffering and teachers should also have dignity in their work. We need to build confidence and trust in both parents and teachers. We need to come together as one and take a decision,” he added.
Later as a response to the protest conducted by school managements, various parent associations wrote a letter, expressing their “disgust” at the turn of events. The letter also urged schools to comply with the government’s order and not “drag teachers into the issue unnecessarily”.
“You want to fill your coffers at the cost of both, Teachers and Parents by intimidating them with dire consequences. Any school which has a stake or claim for anything more than 70% of Tuition fee ordered by the Government, should submit their audited accounts and fee structure for approval by the department, in order to merit more than 70% tuition fee, rather than come out on the streets and drag the teachers along to prove your strength,” the letter read.