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HomeLatest NewsPrivate schools in India are on the brink of bankruptcy that a third wave of COVID-19 could be their end

Private schools in India are on the brink of bankruptcy that a third wave of COVID-19 could be their end

New Delhi: The stress among private schools is emerging mainly due to poor fee collections, which is not just affecting their cash flows but also impeding their ability to pay loan dues.

Many of them fear that a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and a subsequent lockdown, if any, may even force them to shut down forever.

The worst-hit have been pre-primary to middle-level schools, especially those catering to low-income families in rural and semi-urban areas.

Private schools in India have been struggling to pay their bills and loan dues to banks and other lenders due to poor student turnout amid the pandemic. Many of them fear that a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and a subsequent lockdown, if any, may even force them to shut down forever.

The worst-hit have been those that focus on pre-primary to middle-level education, and cater to low-income families in rural and semi-urban areas. Aside from causing a disastrous loss in the form of lack of access to education for children, this could lead to a lot of unpaid loans for banks and other lenders, and loss of livelihood for teachers and support staff.

Take Kerala High School, located in Karimnagar in Telangana, for instance. The budget private school that runs classes from Nursery to Xth standard has a strength of 550 students, with most hailing from the neighbouring villages. For the past 18 months, it has been surviving on near-zero cash flows as most of the fees it collected got exhausted in paying salaries to its staff, repaying loan installments, and running online classes.

The fee collection, at close to 20% for the last academic year, has been poor mainly because parents either lost their livelihoods during the pandemic or were unwilling to pay school fees due to absence of offline classes.

Further, even the attendance for online classes has remained low at just 20-30%, said Rajendra B, chairman and principal at Kerala High School for the past decade, as most students did not have smartphones and internet connections.

But if a third Covid wave happens and lockdown curbs are announced again, the 27-year old school may not even survive. “We had to take loans from family and friends to pay our loan installments during the pandemic as debt kept piling up,” said Rajendra. “If a third wave strikes and there is a lockdown again, I may have to sell half of my 1,000 sq. ft school land to repay the dues,” he said.

Further, many students studying in private schools have already switched to government schools over the past three years, as per the Annual Status of Education Report 2020 that surveyed 16,761 schools across India. The study, conducted by non-government body Pratham in Sep. 2020, said that the reasons for the switch “may include financial distress in households and/or permanent school shutdowns among the private schools.”

Pain Points

Private schools that operate in pre-primary, primary and middle education categories (classes Nursery to Class VIIth), according to Vivek Iyer, partner and national leader-financial services risk advisory at Grant Thornton Bharat, have been the worst-affected as they have remained shut the longest for close to 17-18 months.

The Covid impact, he said, has also been higher on schools catering to children from low-income families and rural areas “Lower the school fees and the category of the school, worse the Covid impact. That way, private schools catering to the most vulnerable segments have been the worst-hit, while their quality of education has also suffered due to poor transition to digital learning models,” he said.

Steve Hardgrave, co-founder and chief executive of Varthana, a Bengaluru-based non-bank lender that focuses on loans to affordable private schools that charge fees of up to Rs 3,000 a month, is dreading the expected third wave of the pandemic. “Of the 4,000 schools that we have funded, close to 5% (or 200 schools) have cited issues with continuing their business, but that number is expected to go up to 25% if the third wave strikes. Also, owners that were running schools on leased land and property are finding it difficult to sustain,” he said. “In some cases, schools had to be sold to a third-party to facilitate clearing off their loan dues.”

And Hardgrave is not alone. Even as schools have reopened in most parts of the country, classroom attendance remains thin at about 20-30% as parents are afraid to send their children to schools due to lack of vaccination for children below 18 years of age, said V L Ramakrishnan, managing director and chief executive at Shikha Finance, a Tamil Nadu-based lender that focuses primarily on school financing.

“Even though schools have reopened, it is an abstract factor, because parents are still reluctant in sending their children, especially those studying between Nursery and class VIIIth, back to schools,” he said. “About 3-5% of school entrepreneurs, or roughly 20 schools, in our portfolio, have expressed that they will not be able to continue their business. If a third wave strikes, that number would go up,” he said.

Mounting Debt

It is clear that the stress among private schools is emerging mainly due to poor fee collections, which is not just affecting their cash flows but also impeding their ability to pay loan dues.

Chirag Jagdish Chandra Pathak, who has been running Mother Care School that offers education for kindergarten to Class XIIth students in Kheda, Gujarat, had taken a ₹6 crore loan in March 2018 to construct a new school building. As the pandemic struck in March last year, the school’s cash flows fell to near-zero in the following five months. Businessinsider.in.net

Private schools in India are on the brink of bankruptcy that a third wave of COVID-19 could be their end

New Delhi: The stress among private schools is emerging mainly due to poor fee collections, which is not just affecting their cash flows but also impeding their ability to pay loan dues.

Many of them fear that a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and a subsequent lockdown, if any, may even force them to shut down forever.

The worst-hit have been pre-primary to middle-level schools, especially those catering to low-income families in rural and semi-urban areas.

Private schools in India have been struggling to pay their bills and loan dues to banks and other lenders due to poor student turnout amid the pandemic. Many of them fear that a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and a subsequent lockdown, if any, may even force them to shut down forever.

The worst-hit have been those that focus on pre-primary to middle-level education, and cater to low-income families in rural and semi-urban areas. Aside from causing a disastrous loss in the form of lack of access to education for children, this could lead to a lot of unpaid loans for banks and other lenders, and loss of livelihood for teachers and support staff.

Take Kerala High School, located in Karimnagar in Telangana, for instance. The budget private school that runs classes from Nursery to Xth standard has a strength of 550 students, with most hailing from the neighbouring villages. For the past 18 months, it has been surviving on near-zero cash flows as most of the fees it collected got exhausted in paying salaries to its staff, repaying loan installments, and running online classes.

The fee collection, at close to 20% for the last academic year, has been poor mainly because parents either lost their livelihoods during the pandemic or were unwilling to pay school fees due to absence of offline classes.

Further, even the attendance for online classes has remained low at just 20-30%, said Rajendra B, chairman and principal at Kerala High School for the past decade, as most students did not have smartphones and internet connections.

But if a third Covid wave happens and lockdown curbs are announced again, the 27-year old school may not even survive. “We had to take loans from family and friends to pay our loan installments during the pandemic as debt kept piling up,” said Rajendra. “If a third wave strikes and there is a lockdown again, I may have to sell half of my 1,000 sq. ft school land to repay the dues,” he said.

Further, many students studying in private schools have already switched to government schools over the past three years, as per the Annual Status of Education Report 2020 that surveyed 16,761 schools across India. The study, conducted by non-government body Pratham in Sep. 2020, said that the reasons for the switch “may include financial distress in households and/or permanent school shutdowns among the private schools.”

Pain Points

Private schools that operate in pre-primary, primary and middle education categories (classes Nursery to Class VIIth), according to Vivek Iyer, partner and national leader-financial services risk advisory at Grant Thornton Bharat, have been the worst-affected as they have remained shut the longest for close to 17-18 months.

The Covid impact, he said, has also been higher on schools catering to children from low-income families and rural areas “Lower the school fees and the category of the school, worse the Covid impact. That way, private schools catering to the most vulnerable segments have been the worst-hit, while their quality of education has also suffered due to poor transition to digital learning models,” he said.

Steve Hardgrave, co-founder and chief executive of Varthana, a Bengaluru-based non-bank lender that focuses on loans to affordable private schools that charge fees of up to Rs 3,000 a month, is dreading the expected third wave of the pandemic. “Of the 4,000 schools that we have funded, close to 5% (or 200 schools) have cited issues with continuing their business, but that number is expected to go up to 25% if the third wave strikes. Also, owners that were running schools on leased land and property are finding it difficult to sustain,” he said. “In some cases, schools had to be sold to a third-party to facilitate clearing off their loan dues.”

And Hardgrave is not alone. Even as schools have reopened in most parts of the country, classroom attendance remains thin at about 20-30% as parents are afraid to send their children to schools due to lack of vaccination for children below 18 years of age, said V L Ramakrishnan, managing director and chief executive at Shikha Finance, a Tamil Nadu-based lender that focuses primarily on school financing.

“Even though schools have reopened, it is an abstract factor, because parents are still reluctant in sending their children, especially those studying between Nursery and class VIIIth, back to schools,” he said. “About 3-5% of school entrepreneurs, or roughly 20 schools, in our portfolio, have expressed that they will not be able to continue their business. If a third wave strikes, that number would go up,” he said.

Mounting Debt

It is clear that the stress among private schools is emerging mainly due to poor fee collections, which is not just affecting their cash flows but also impeding their ability to pay loan dues.

Chirag Jagdish Chandra Pathak, who has been running Mother Care School that offers education for kindergarten to Class XIIth students in Kheda, Gujarat, had taken a ₹6 crore loan in March 2018 to construct a new school building. As the pandemic struck in March last year, the school’s cash flows fell to near-zero in the following five months. Businessinsider.in.net

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