While schools in the city are reopening, several children continue to remain out of schools as they cannot afford the school fees
More than 42 percent of children living in slums cannot attend school as their parents are unable to afford the school fees. The schools have asked for the pending fees of the past two years, which adds up to thousands of rupees. Shweta S., a resident of Siddharth Nagar Slum said, “We do labour work. The school is asking for Rs 80,000. How can we afford? My son hasn’t attended school for the past two years. They’re not even giving us the TC (Transfer Certificate).” She continued to add that she feels extremely guilty to see that her children are spending time idly when they should be spending it in school. Vani S., mother to four children,said, “Our monthly income is Rs 5000. Earlier the school fee was Rs 700, now that has become Rs 1200 for 6th standard and Rs 1700 for 8th standard. It is very difficult to afford.” It had also become very difficult to afford regular expenses, as the parents also had to purchase smartphones for the children to attend classes online.
The parents had enrolled their children in private schools, as they want to provide them the best quality education. Shweta said, “I want my son to get the best education, not like us.” Shifting to a government school isn’t a viable option as the language becomes a barrier. Lohith K., age 11, would attend a private school earlier. He cannot attend a government school as the medium of study is Kannada which he neither can read, write or understand. He said, “They (the school) asked me to leave as my parents couldn’t pay the fees. In the other (Government) school, I can’t understand anything so I stopped going.” Along with the language barrier, the parents believe the government schools don’t provide good quality education. Vani said, “In government schools, the teachers use bad words and are not disciplined at all. They themselves are not regular. They don’t even have a computer lab. If the child is absent, they don’t even call and verify. It is not strict at all.”
According to government statistics over 15 crore children in India have dropped out of school since the beginning of the pandemic. The national dropout rate stands at 17 percent in upper primarygrades.Further, more than 30 percent of students did not transition from secondary (Classes 9-10) to senior secondary level (Classes 11-12), as per the Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) 2019-20.
Recently,protestswere organized by Slum MahilaSanghatane. ActionaidAssociation is lending a helping hand to this community group to bridge the gap by bringing the voices of marginalized communities to the notice of government officials. They have conducted a public hearing where the social welfare department have agreed to look at the possibility of paying fees from the reserved SCP funds of SC communities as most children living in slums belong to SC communities. In three wards in Bengaluru that the NGOs work in, at least 142 children out of 384 dropped out of school in 2020 and 2021 because their parents could not afford to pay the fees, according to reports. They believe that the school fee should be waived off for the children below poverty line as this is a denial of children’s fundamental right to education. Jancy, a member of Slum MahilaSangatane, said “Further, we have planned to send letters to the Chief Minister and also the education minister. We also plan to do Twitter campaign.”
However, D ShashiKumar, General Secretary of The Associate Management of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka (KAMS) believes enough leeway has already been given. He said, “It is all a blame game. Did they ask their water bills, electricity bills, food bills, to be waived off? Every other celebration is going on, but when it comes to the fee matter, they become poor.They can re-shift to some other school that they can afford. The parents have all right to choose government school. Just saying that they’re economically weaker is nothing but violation.”