E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Primary education has become so expensive, a lot of parents simply want their children to grow up and admit them straightaway to college and postgraduate studies. I know, this sounds silly but those who have gone through this are ready to vouch for this.
I decided to seek the views of a parent, as in India fees, whether it is LKG, UKG, plus-2, degree or MBA, goes to the cash box mostly after making a deep hole in the parent’s pocket. The fees is generally obtained as a loan pledging whatever one has as, be it gold, provident fund, public provident fund, insurance bonds, mutual funds, etc.
I met a parent at the counter paying fees for his son’s admission to MBA. I asked him how he had managed to educate his only son.
“When my baba joined LKG, I spent Rs 1 lakh towards his fees, the baba suit uniform, school site, proposed school building, shoes with different colours for each day of the week, a peon to load and unload his books to the autorickshaw, rickshaw charges etc. I also paid for the birthday of the founder, the centenary celebrations of founder’s grandparents, etc.”
“How did you raise the amount?”
“Since I had just started my career, I could not get any loan. My wife and I did part time jobs, saved on every penny, cut corners, did odd jobs on weekends and raised money. That’s how he did his LKG. However, we had to throw it all and buy everything new for his UKG.”
“The management had changed and they wanted everything new. Further, we were asked to pay and run each week towards environment day, eradication of leprosy, chacha Nehru’s day, Indira Gandhi’s birthday, etc. We also had to pay for the expansion of the proposed school building to be built after 15 years.”
“How did you manage his UKG?”
“I did not. My father-in-law did. He took a loan from his PF.”
“So, you really struggled to make him a UKG graduate. How were his school and college days?”
“Education is much cheaper in schools and colleges than in primary schools! But sending him to college cost us a lot of money. The fees were not much, but he wanted Hoodibaba motor cycle, Samsung DVD, iPod, BlackBerry mobile, Nike shoes, credit card, Rs 1,000 as pocket money each week….”
“From where did you get the funds for his school and college education?”
“This time I took a loan from my PF! Not for his education, but to fulfill his needs after the classes.”
“Now that you have paid his fees, your son will soon become an MBA.”
“Yes, I have to get him an iPhone. I want to give something back to the community. I am the president of BPA—the Bankrupt Parents’ Association. We are planning to meet the Education Minister and request him to make Primary Education free. Why don’t you join us?” he invited me.
Our meeting with the Minister was over in five minutes. He cut short the long presentation of BPA President.
“Look, no government can afford to make primary education free! If we did, we will go bankrupt and we will have to pledge our gold and silver again and borrow loan. One thing we can do though. We will make college and post graduate studies free. We will also arrange for unlimited cups of tea, coffee, Pepsi and Coke at the canteen and keep it open for 24×7. But we can’t make primary education free!”