In an attempt to generate revenue, Shantiniketan Central School in Kadur taluk in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka has converted open areas of about two-and-a-half acres into farms, and unused classrooms into spaces for workshops.
Apart from the school management of the school and teachers have used the premises to grow marigold flowers, beans, brinjal, and chilli, The Hindu reported.
The pandemic has not only put the teachers in a tight spot, but even schools have been struggling to stay afloat. Several private school management members told the media that they had no option but to convert their space as they had not been able to collect school fees.
"We were unable to get any revenue this year. Our school has 410 students, but no parent paid the annual fees for the 2020-2021 academic year," Dinesh Kumar GD, Chairman of Shantiniketan Central School was quoted as saying.
The initiative to grow produce to meet expenses was also not as successful as they had hoped, as the recent rains had washed away their produce. Kumar said that only ₹3,800 is left in the school's bank balance.
Several budget private schools, particularly in rural areas, are unable to bear the recurring expenditure. The state unit president of Recognised Unaided Private Schools' Association, Lokesh Talikatte, said that the government has not provided them with any aid for school managements or teachers who were in financial distress. Due to this, some managements have sold their schools and movable assets such as school buses.
Schools are also being used to dry fish. A management member at Educare English Medium, Amadalli Karwar, said that he had been using his school campus, spread over 1.2 acres, to dry fish.
Of the 389 students, only 50 have paid a portion of the school fees. While their annual fee is ₹8,100, some of the parents have paid fees ranging from ₹200 to ₹5,000, Karwar informed. He said no student is forced to pay the fees, as that might result in parents pulling their children out of the school and enrolling them in government schools.
Another worrying trend for private schools is the growing popularity of government schools, which is beneficial for families who can no longer afford the fees.
Christopher Cheriyan, secretary of Emmanuel Mission School, Holalkere Rural in Chitradurga district, has converted a portion of his school into a workshop where he does some welding work to earn additional income. Over 60 students from the school have already taken transfer certificates, and their parents have enrolled them in government schools, who themselves have lost jobs amid the ongoing pandemic.