Haryana: Private schools witness 42% decline in enrollments this year
Haryana has seen a 42% dip in enrollments at the state's private schools compared to last year as at least 12.51 lakh private school students failed to register for the current academic year even three months after it commenced. Alarmed over the development, in a directive to district officials, Haryana's Directorate of School Education (DSE) expressed apprehensions these "missing" students could have dropped out.
According to data provided by private schools to the Haryana Education Department, only 17.31 lakh students so far enrolled for the 2021-22 academic year compared to 29.83 registrations last year. DSE's directive to district officials says, "Hold meetings with heads/managements of private schools to get updated the data of these 12.51 lakh students so that the apprehensions of their dropping out can be minimized."
However, officials feel private schools themselves might have not enrolled some of these "missing" students due to fee issues. Meanwhile, some students would've either shifted to government schools or dropped out over the lack of access to online education amid the COVID-19-induced lockdown. Especially, students from rural areas might find it difficult to continue their education. Also, the pandemic has left many parents jobless.
Haryana's Education Minister Kanwar Pal Gurjar told TheIndianExpress the "huge gap" in enrollments was surprising, adding, "We will get the issue examined." But some feel many students haven't enrolled themselves believing schools won't open this year, too. Children of laborers and migrant workers might not have registered as their parents either lost jobs or returned to native places due to the lack of work.
Meanwhile, private schools say government schools' intensified efforts to attract more children is a major reason for the dip. "Get your children admitted to government schools to avoid the heavy fees of private schools," some government school teachers can be seen saying in a video on social media, urging parents in Haryana's Bhatta village to send kids to fully-staffed government schools with hardworking teachers.
Furthermore, Kulbhushan Sharma, Haryana's President of the Federation of Private Schools' Welfare Association, hit out at government schools for admitting students irrespective of whether they have the mandatory school leaving certificate (SLC) from their previous institution, violating the existing rules. Moreover, the National Independent Schools Alliance that represents budget private schools sought the Punjab and Haryana High Court's intervention on the SLC issue.
On the other hand, government officials say no student can be denied admission in government schools until Class-8 and they're only acting according to the Right to Education Act provisions. "We have not done away with the (condition) of SLC and...admit students on a provisional basis (so that there's no break in their education)," Haryana Additional Chief Secretary (School Education) Mahavir Singh told TheIndianExpress.
Sharma also said many teachers in the state are now jobless as private schools exhaust their financial resources amid the pandemic-induced lockdown and blamed the government for the same. "Private school owners were hoping that the government would come to their rescue and some sort of relief package would be announced for them, but all such hopes have come crashing down," he said.