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Letter To Deputy CM

Letter To Deputy CM

Dear Shri Manish Sisodia Ji,

I am a coffee lover. I make reasonably good coffee. I hope I will have an opportunity to make a cup of coffee for you. A cup of coffee, including milk, coffee powder and sugar-free, costs me about Rs 15.

If I order a cup of Cappuccino from Coffee CafeDay, it will cost me Rs 120-150. The same coffee will cost not less than Rs 250 at Starbucks at Connaught Place. If I go to a five-star hotel in a metropolis, it will cost me about Rs 1,000, including GST. Since coffee at any of these outlets are unaffordable to me, I avoid drinking it outside of home or office.

Can we complain about the price they charge? I, for one, would not. When you visit a five-star hotel and use its wash-room, you will notice a janitor cleaning and wiping the washbasin dry after you use it. Usually, I give him a tip. You will also be given a clean, freshly-ironed cotton napkin. That is why they charge such a high amount for a cup of coffee or tea, served with some cookies as a compliment. In Delhi, there are thousands of schools which are government or municipality-owned or private, which are either aided or unaided.

These schools have been charging different kinds of fees like restaurants charging different prices for, more or less, the same kind of coffee. I studied mostly in Government schools in Kerala where the teachers were better qualified. I never had any complaint. That is not the case in Delhi where only the very poor send their wards to government schools.

Instead of making all government schools institutions of excellence, you have set up some special schools for the specially talented. I know a school in Delhi which admits only those who scored not less than 90 per cent marks to Class X1. Teaching such students is easy. The real challenge is in teaching students who score 10-20 per cent marks or even less to enable them to get 70-100 per cent marks. Anyway, my intention is not to find fault with government schools.

Just before the last Assembly elections, I heard Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claiming that your government did not allow any private school to increase its fee during the last four years.

I am the Manager of a private school and I am sure you will remember us as you graciously attended two of our public functions. We are one of the schools badly affected by your policy of not letting private schools to increase their fees. Every year we used to increase the fees by about 10 per cent. When we started the school, we charged a fee as low as Rs 50. Yes, it was not a recognised school at that time. There was pressure from the parents to go in for recognition. The recognition came with conditions that we pay teachers the prescribed salary. We were forced to increase the fees. Accordingly, we started paying the sixth pay commission-prescribed salary.

Then your government asked us to pay the teachers the seventh pay commission salary. We had no objection. We wanted to increase the fees by 15 per cent. You asked us to hold meetings of parents, get their approval etc. When we followed all your instructions, you asked us to submit ourselves to an audit. I know how to run a school better than a junior chartered accountant who sees only the figures, not the nearly 2000 human faces I see in our school everyday.

The result of your exercise is that we have not been able to increase our fees for the last four years. By the way, you would have paid a huge audit fee to the multinational audit firms you employed for the purpose. Now, you have asked all the schools to charge only the tuition fees and that too monthly, not even quarterly.

April is the month when we get the maximum fee collection. Last month, we could collect only Rs 2 lakh when the monthly salary bill is about Rs 30 lakh. We have about Rs 12 lakh with us. We do not know how to pay salaries for April, May and June when, it appears, the school will remain closed. We also have to pay the driver and the cleaner of the bus and keep the vehicle in running condition, though we can’t charge any bus fee.

I won’t blame the parents because they have been badly affected by Coronavirus. It’s your thoughtless action of needlessly interfering in the affairs of schools that has ruined the school system In Delhi. Do you know that there are schools which charge a monthly fee of over Rs 50,000 in New Delhi? Only parents who can afford the fees send their wards to such schools.

You can’t standardise the fees like you can’t standardise the price of coffee. There are hundreds of private schools in Delhi which won’t be able to pay full salaries to their staff in the present situation. In many countries like Sweden, no private school can charge any fees. The schools are given a government subsidy with which they have to run their schools.

You should think of giving a subsidy to schools like ours which do not have any surplus to rely on in these days of Covid. After all, it is your misguided, thoughtless policy that has ruined hundreds, if not thousands, of schools in the Capital. By the way, do you know that last time when the CBSE inspected our school, one recommendation it made was that we should improve our finances? How could we tell them that it was your government which spoiled our finances?

While I was at school, I was taught the principle underlying the saying “he who pays the piper calls the tune” In Delhi, you do not pay the piper but you still call the tune! Please remember that one size does not fit all. Also, think of a stimulus package for schools like Deepalaya School, Kalkaji Extension, New Delhi.

Yours etc.

( ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 04th May 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 19)