Raghu R is going through a turbulent time after his father Ranga Swamy, chairman and founder of Lawrence International Public School, Bengaluru, passed away in August. Reason: growing anxiety about not being able to keep the school alive. The school, which started in 2006, had to close in August after registering zero enrolments. Not just Lawrence International Public School, 1132 private schools in Karnataka have registered zero admissions this academic year (2022-23).
According to data accessed by indianexpress.com from the Karnataka School Education Department, out of 1132 schools, 367 lower primary schools, 466 upper primary schools and 299 high schools registered zero admissions this year. In fact, according to data presented by state School Education Minister BC Nagesh during the March 2022 budget session, 966 unaided private schools recorded zero enrollment for the academic year 2021-22. There has been an increase of 166 schools in 2022-23 which recorded zero intakes.
This year, 523 government schools and 176 government-aided schools have recorded zero enrollment. Hence, as many as 1831 schools in Karnataka recorded zero enrollment for 2022-23. The data also reveals that 745 pre-university colleges have also recorded zero enrollments this academic year.
According to education officials, many private schools did not register enrollments in the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic, forcing them to close. From not paying rent to providing poor quality education, the reasons for declining admission numbers are many.
Block education officers (BEOs) point out that the quality of education in many private schools, especially in rural areas, is deteriorating because the schools have not been able to hire qualified teachers.
talking with indianexpress.com, Raghu said that his father’s death and the family’s financial situation led to the dismal state of the school. “My father ventured into education only after 65 years. Everything was fine until the pandemic broke out. With online classes taking priority and low admission rates, it was difficult to pay the rent for the building. 50,000 rupees were spent on rent and another 50,000 rupees on teachers’ salaries. After the school reopened in 2022, we saw no new intakes. My father became worried and his health began to deteriorate and eventually led to his death and then we had to close the school”.
He added that before the pandemic LKG’s admissions in class 7 was recorded at 120. The school had eight teachers and most of them resigned voluntarily and did not report for work after learning that no new ones were registered school admissions.
Shruti K, a teacher, is looking for a new job in another school, after the Icon International School in Bangalore, where she used to work, closed down in March 2020 due to zero admissions. The school started in 2013 and housed students from Kindergarten to 8th grade. The school had 20 teachers and all of them are now looking for a new job.
According to CV Hugar, the school’s chief secretary, the trustees of the institution stopped contributing after the pandemic. “We closed the school at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, after the administrators were not willing to fund the school. We used to spend Rs 1,70,000 on building rent and Rs 3,50,000 on salaries of teachers, electricity and maintenance per month. The landlord was not willing to reduce the rent, as a result we had to close the school,” said Hugar.
However, according to Mangalore South taluk education officials, some private schools closed due to competition from other private schools. For example, Preethi Lower Primary School in Nandigudda recorded zero admissions for 2021 and closed down after facing competition from other schools, according to an education official. “The school had good infrastructure and sufficient teaching staff. However, the students took transfer certificates to nearby private schools that fared better,” said an education official.
But Lily Pereira, founder of the school, said it has been operating since 1994. “In the beginning I started the school because there were no schools in the neighborhood. But cut until 2020, many private schools emerged. In general, we used to register very low admissions because the level of education was only up to class 5. Also, most of our students were from North India. With a lack of continuity and students returning to their home country during the pandemic, we recorded zero admissions, forcing us to close the school. We always had between 45 and 50 students every year,” said Pereira, who now runs Babyland, a nursery school.
In Belagavi, however, education officials pointed out that better-facilitated government schools are forcing students to leave private schools. For example, KLPS Birasiddeshwar Sundholi School in Belgavi Mudalagi taluk lacked good infrastructure and quality education, which became the reason for zero admissions.
Ajjappa Mannikeri, BEO of Mudalagi taluk said, “We have asked the school to hand over the school records to the nearby government schools as the management could no longer run the private school. The number of admissions was zero for the academic year 2021-22 and about 50 students from classes 1-5 are shifting to nearby government schools.There are three government schools including an all-girls school, a 100-year-old school and a primary school. The quality of education and the lack of qualified teachers deteriorated admissions to the school”.
Lokesh Talikatte, president of the Association of Registered Unaided Private Schools, which represents 13,000 budget schools in the state, said: “The government needs to give time for private schools to revive. If Covid-19 is one of the reasons, harassment by district and taluk education officials is another that has led to the devastating state of private schools.Government should give time for schools to apply for renewal of permission and submit land records, among other documents. Instead, officials threaten and close schools.”