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Amid financial crises, admission withdrawals in many low-cost private schools, fewer enrolments in entry-level classes

Several private schools in the national capital have witnessed fewer enrolments in entry-level classes this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the school managements, many parents have even dis-enrolled their children, citing financial constraints triggered by a nationwide lockdown to contain the pandemic.

A majority of these private schools are low-cost ones charging monthly tuition fees between ₹600 and ₹1,300 per student and catering to the children of lower-middle-class families. Hari Prakash Sharma, the chairperson of New Happy Public School in Narela Mandi, said they have 80 seats in entry-level classes—nursery, kindergarten and Class 1. “We have received only six or seven admissions this year as of now. It’s never happened before. Parents of at least 80 students have withdrawn their wards’ admissions in the last two months, citing financial issues. We do not know how we will survive this year since we are not even receiving fees from all students. We cannot even pay our staff,” he said. The school offers education up to Class 8 and charges ₹1,100 tuition fees per student per month.

There is a similar situation in several other schools. Dharampal Sehrawat, the chairperson of Shiva Model School in Bawana that offers classes up to Class 10, said that they have received no admission to nursery and kindergarten this year. “We do not have a nursery class this year. A majority of students who were promoted from nursery to kindergarten have left. At least 10-15 students have applied for transfer certificates (TCs) in every class. We are in terrible shape now. The overall enrolment has drastically reduced this year,” he said. The school charges ₹800 tuition fees per student per month.

Priyanka Gulati, the principal of Evergreen Public School that has primary branches in both Mayur Vihar-1 and Acharya Niketan, said that both the branches have received very few admissions this year. “Every year, all our sections are usually full by this time. But this year, we only have a handful of admissions in both branches. It will be a major challenge to run two branches with such a thin strength this year. We do not know how we will retain our staff,” she said.

In some schools in rural areas of Delhi, parents of as many as 20%-30% students have withdrawn their admissions. Pradeep Vats, the chairperson of Marigold Public School in north-west Delhi’s Katewara, said that 30% of the 1,400 students enrolled in their school have left. The school offers education from nursery to Class 12 and charges between ₹1,300 and ₹2,500 in tuition fees per student per month. “Many parents have said that they won’t be able to pay the fees this year citing financial crises. They have said they will enrol them in government schools,” he said.

Anuradha Mehta, the principal of Red Roses Public School in Saket, said, “Many parents of students in junior classes have applied for a TC and a few have already left without it. We also have seats vacant in nursery, which is unprecedented.”

Among the parents, who have withdrawn their children from private schools, is Mahesh Kumar who was working in a factory in Gandhi Nagar till March. Kumar has lost his job due to the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-enforced lockdown. His two children—a son (10) and a daughter (9)—were studying in a private school till March. “I am not in a position to pay the school fees this year. I am waiting for government school admissions to begin. I will enrol y children in a government school this year,” he said.

While government schools are yet to begin non-planned admissions, the three civic bodies—north, east and south—started the admission process in their schools on July 20. Students who migrate from MCD to Delhi government schools in Class 6 are called ‘planned admissions’, those who migrate from any other school to any class are called ‘non-planned admissions’.

An advisor to Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia, who requested anonymity, said that the government will soon start the admission process in its schools. “The migration of Class 6 students from MCD schools to Delhi government schools is already completed. We will soon start admission to other classes as well. There is a huge possibility of private schools students moving to government schools in large numbers this year. Also, parents now know that government schools in Delhi are equally good or even better than several private schools,” the advisor said.

Principles of several municipal schools said that this year they have admitted several students who were earlier studying at private schools in the neighbourhood. Lalit Ahuja, the principal of the south civic body school in Aya Nagar, said, “We admitted a few students from private schools in almost every class within a week of the commencement of admissions. We are also getting calls from parents who want to shift their children from private schools. We will get a clear picture by the end of August.”

Meanwhile, some parents are also switching from expensive private schools to affordable private schools. Simple Bedi, a single mother of a Class 4 student, has been out of work since March. The resident of Ashram was working as a trainer in a gym. She has moved her son from a prominent south Delhi school to another private school this year. “I was not able to afford the fees in the previous school. There is a difference of ₹6,000 in the monthly fees of both the schools,” she said.

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