The COVID-19 pandemic left us in the lurch on many things. One of the major curveballs has been education. With constant disruptions and switching to online mode, education has suffered huge setbacks. In the midst of this, an unforeseen trend has emerged. Data shows that there is a reverse migration from private to government schools. And this trend is being seen across different states.
What the data says
In Hyderabad, for instance, over 300 schools are staring at closure with majority of their students ‘missing’ in action. “In many schools, the strength has dropped from 600 in 2019-20 to less than 300 in 2021-22 as many families with meager or no incomes have not been able to pay fees or buy gadgets required to attend online classes. Multiple calls to parents have yielded no response. We are now wondering if we should consider these students as dropouts and shutdown our schools,” said S. Madhusudan, advisor of TRSMA.
“We have observed an up to 20% rise in enrollment from private to government schools. This is largely owing to the inability to pay fees,” said Chava Ravi, General Secretary of Telangana State United Teachers Federation.
Factors behind reverse migration from private to government schools
Inability of parents to pay fees due to loss of jobs, pay cuts, and shutting down of budget schools due to financial crisis have contributed to this phenomenon to a large extent. On the bright side, mid-day meal (or ration kit) provided in government schools is also an important aspect of this. It ensures nutritious meals for one’s child even in face of financial difficulties.
Moreover, as there are no physical classes, parents feel that paying the fee is a waste. At a government school, education is free and their children will automatically be promoted to the next class. The fact that many students and their parents, especially in rural and remote areas, are not interested in online classes or paying the fees, has made matters worse.
During the academic year 2020-21, students attended physical classes for hardly two months. Despite this, as many as 3.8 lakh parents from Telangana, mostly the ones with school-going children, have taken loans to pay the school fee.
Reports suggest that about 900 schools in Telangana have tied up with third-party firms to provide EMI options for parents to clear school fees. This appears as a major factor for students seeking transfer from private to government schools.
What this means for Smile Foundation
Our Mission Education centres charge minimal or no fees compared to the other low budget affordable schools. Thus, for us, this trend has brought about positive results.
Many children who are part of our remedial programs are already enrolled in government schools. Some of our ME NGO partners have seen an increase in students’ enrolment from other low budget schools while retaining the existing students. Additionally, we have being taking other measures to keep children in school or bring them back.
- Provision of teaching-learning materials and resources
- Counseling of parents and students, encouraging them to continue the learning process, and
- Provision of essential ration kits to the students’ families. (This helped us support the parents during the pandemic and enable them to ensure that the learning process for their children continues.)
Government schools can take this opportunity of reverse migration to buck up and get the ball rolling towards improvements in the education system. This unexpected phenomenon can end up making quality education affordable for all.
With inputs from Gargi Kapoor and her team at Mission Education.