Schooling On A Shoestring

Friday, April 17, 2009

“Papa, why won’t you pay the fees?” asked Krtin.

My 7 year old son remembered that he got the fees bill a couple of days back from the school and I normally give him the cheque to be dropped in the box the next day morning.

“Your school has raised the fees and it’s a big raise. I don’t think the raise is justified. So, I will talk to your principal before I pay the fees”, I said.

“Papa, what is ‘justified’”, asked Krtin.

I thought of various ways to explain him what this could mean to him. I knew that I was getting better at the English language as I dump more and more garbage on Fursat Friday week over week for my own reading pleasure. On the contrary, by the power of the flag counter that I have recently set on the left vacant column of my blogspot, which, most normally, many financially intelligent bloggers clog with ad-space and revenue churning square centimetres of prime blog space, I also knew that the readership on the blog isn’t going any places. I mean, the latest flag indicated Oman. Somebody must be real peeved with life to want to trespass onto my blogspot from Oman without even knowing me!

But most unknowingly, I discovered that I cannot use all my acquired expertise in the English language with my children. I decided to be simpler.“Your school is ‘not right’ in increasing the fees by so much more money”, I offered.

Krtin thought for a while. “Papa, why did they increase the fees? What do they do with the extra money?”

“Well the Government – OK the Prime Minister – said that this year onwards, the teachers need to get more money as salaries. So, to give your teachers more money, they have charged all the parents more money”, I explained.

“But that’s all right. My teachers do a wonderful job. You should give more money to my teachers,” said Krtin. He asked me again. “How do you get the money to pay for my fees?”

I said, “I work hard at my office and my office pays me money, so that I could pay your school fees, pay for our food, this house, your books and all so that we could all live happily”.

“So, where will you get this extra money to pay my teachers Papa? Is your office going to give you extra money this year?”

All the dire threats of the Hewitt and the Hay and every other salary survey loomed large in front of my eyes. Every curve that the recent surveys projected meant to have been going south. Adding incense to the inferno was my own company, which has until now kept all the volumes of these freely obtained sundry surveys from the Google Search as closely guarded company secrets. The situation is so dire this year that we hired a hacker on contract to hack into the Hewitt website, instead of buying the survey documents from them. Including the monetary reward to the girl in HR who suggested we do this, this was much cheaper than what Hewitt would have sold us the survey for.

Will I get a raise this year? “No Krtin. I don’t think I will get more extra money this year”, I said.

“Will mummy get more money this year? She is also a teacher – isn’t she?” asked Krtin.

Smita, my wife, teaches at an NGO school, where on occasions, she pays out of her pocket to get things moving. “No, she won’t either”, I said.

“Why won’t she? The parents of the children in her school must also pay more so that mummy gets more money” argued Krtin.

“The children in her school are poor Krtin. They don’t have to pay any money to go to school. Their parents do not have enough money to feed them. At times, they go to sleep without food”, I said.

“Oh”, he sighed. It was a lifetime before he came back again. “So, if you put me in their school, you won’t have to work hard to pay my extra fees Papa. Is that right?”

I hugged my son. With an alarming simplicity, he had humbled me. And all the capitalists that run educational institutions in the country and those that have unduly raised the fees in umpteen schools under the pretext of the 6th Pay Commission, under various illicit heads with no heed to recession and with no remorse about their own cost structure.

I would pay teachers, the supposed beneficiaries of the Pay Commission recommendations, the rightful recipients of the raised remuneration. If I touched my heart, the only way to get more people in the country to get into teaching is to pay them well. I would do that – any day!

I protest a raised transport bill. I protest a raised books and stationery bill. I protest the very nature of commercial opportunism in education.

Pay the Commission or Don’t!

Have a Great Weekend.

Ravi Kodukula.

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