Parents now enrol children in government schools

The pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have affected many families

With her son studying till Class V at a private school here, Devi (name changed), a resident of Saibaba Colony, decided to change school for her son for Class VI this year. Employed as a nurse at a dental clinic and her husband working for a food delivery aggregator, the COVID-19-induced lockdown impacted the financial situation of the family to the extent that they could no longer afford to pay the fees at the private school, she said.

Hence, the couple decided to enrol their son at a government-aided school for the current academic year. “Government schools have now come on a par with private schools,” Ms. Devi told The Hindu on Thursday. She also plans to shift her younger son currently studying Class IV at a private school to a government school.

With the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns affecting many families, several parents are opting to shift their children from private schools to government and aided schools in Coimbatore district.

As per data from the Coimbatore Chief Educational Office, enrolment at the 1,208 government schools in the district for the academic year 2021-22 stood at 1,75,873 students as of Wednesday, surpassing the total number of admissions of 1,68,645 students in 2020-21. With the admission process yet to be completed, the enrolment in government schools is expected to increase further, according to officials.

G. Ramesh, headmaster of Government Higher Secondary School at Othakkalmandapam, said the new admissions in his school for 2021-22 academic year was 451 as of Thursday, which was already higher than the total number of new admissions in the previous year (398 students). “Many parents say that they are unable to pay the fees in private schools,” he said, noting that many of the new admissions were that of students from private schools.

Amid the increasing enrolment, T. Arulanandam, State auditor of the Tamil Nadu High and Higher Secondary School Graduate Teachers’ Association, suggested that the government schools in the district must improve their facilities to meet the demands of the newly-enrolled students. The Department of School Education must appoint additional teachers to both Tamil and English medium subjects for the current academic year at the earliest, he urged. Conservancy workers must be appointed in government schools to ensure cleanliness of the premises and night security guards must be present to prevent entry of miscreants, he said.

Coordinator of NGO Save School Education Movement S. Chandrasekar said that the Department of School Education must improve the infrastructure of government schools in view of increased enrolment to ensure that basic needs of the students, such as water supply, toilets and electricity, are addressed.

Coimbatore Chief Educational Officer M. Ramakrishnan told The Hindu that the needs of government schools in the district such as additional teachers and infrastructure-related needs will be addressed by the Department of School Education once the admission process were completed. “This is a healthy period for government schools,” he said regarding the increase in enrolment.

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