In a quirk of fate, a tuition class owner is having to sell paani puri these days, all thanks to the Corona pandemic. Jayesh Kariya had set up his venture Star Classes in December 2019 on Kuwaliya Road in Rajkot. When the nation-wide lockdown was clamped down, Kariya couldn’t bear the double whammy of shelling out the rent of his classes and coughing out the loan installments. “I’d written to the Prime Minister, Gujarat chief minister and different other ministers, pleading with them to bail me out. However, when no help came, I had no choice but to down the shutters of my classes and switch over to running the handcart of paani puri,” Kariya tells the VOI.
Rajiv Mishra of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh (UP) shares similar woes. Mishra had established Prime Class Private Limited meant to coach students in the preparation of JEE and NEET exams in 2007. Mishra tells the VOI that in 2019, his class had 1,100 students. Most of the students had come from the remote villages of far eastern UP, the region better known as ‘Purvanchal’. “The lockdown dealt a heavy blow, slashing down the number of the students in my class. The poor internet connectivity in the rural Purvanchal added insult to injury. I was saddled with the burden of paying Rs 5 lakh as rent for the classes. Moreover, I was supposed to pay the professional tax and bear other expenses. The classes had to be closed down,” bemoans Mishra. At present, Mishra takes on-line lectures in some other coaching centre and earns his livelihood. Many teachers employed at Mishra’s classes are hunting for jobs.
According to the Coaching Federation of India (CFI), there are estimated to be 3 lakh coaching centres across India. The Coronage has forced 25 to 35% classes to run out of business. About 35 to 40% coaching centres have been closed down completely in Jharkhand, Bihar, UP, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
This year too, there has been a sharp decline in the number of new admissions to the coaching classes across the country. Before the pandemic, there used to be about 1,200 students studying in different coaching classes of IIT zone of the East Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. This year, the admission ratio of the coaching classes is a measly 550 students. Similarly, in a popular coaching centre of Kota, there has been a reduction of 35% in new admissions. The Nano Classes of South India also reports 50% reduction in the new admissions.
All these have badly impacted teachers. They have had to face the sword of retrenchment. According to CFI director Ashish Gambhir, a large and popular chain of coaching centres has slashed down its staff strength by 25 to 30%. Those who have managed to save their jobs have had to suffer salary cuts.
The coaching classes in Gujarat too have had to bear the brunt of Coronage. Federation of Academic Association vice-president Hemang Rawal claims that the teachers in the coaching classes across the state have had to suffer 25 to 50% salary cuts. The teachers are being deprived of petrol and other miscellaneous allowances to which they were earlier entitled to.
Rajkot Coaching Class Owners’ Association president Prakash Karamchandani narrates a heart wrenching story: “Eighty two-year-old teacher Dilip Mehta kept asking us about the reopening of the classes after the lockdown till he breathed his last. Mr Mehta had taught English for the past 35 years in Rajkot. At 82, he succumbed to corona. Mr Mehta was widely revered as ‘Bhishma Pitamah’ or doyen of English teaching in Rajkot city.”
Unable to bear the expenses of rent, salary, tax and other miscellaneous expenditures, many small coaching centres across the country have taken a hit, having been forced to down their shutters. The major coaching centres are also at the receiving end. Due to the reduction in admissions, they had to resort to retrenchment in their staff strength. Various coaching centre associations in different parts of India have made representations to their respective state government and even the central government, pleading with them to bring about reduction in the professional taxes, dole out financial aids and help them reopen coaching centres.