Hyderabad: The parents of tens of thousands of students may have to make their own arrangements for sending their children to school from September 1 as most private educational establishments say their buses are just not ready to hit the roads.
Private school managements are peeved that the TS Road Transport Authority is not willing to honour the government of India directive that extended the validity of fitness certificates of vehicles till the end of September.
“Classes are set to begin from September 1 and RTA officials are informing the schools that their buses must have new and renewed fitness certificates,” Gopal Reddy Komatireddy, founder of Lotus Lab Public Schools and vice-president of the Telangana Recognised School Managements Association (TRSMA), said.
According to Vasireddy Amarnath, founder of Slate The School, which has a fleet of around 100 buses, “We have been told by RTA officials to pay road tax arrears, get fitness certificates, failing which, if we ply the buses they will be seized. While asking for fitness certificates is all right, insisting on payment of tax dues for the past 18 months when schools were shut, is not fair,” he said.
Officials maintain that since there was no ‘lockdown’ in Telangana state, as far as they are concerned, it was business as usual. “But schools were shut, we were in lockdown mode. School vans and buses cannot ply for any other purpose than taking children to and from schools,” Amarnath said.
“It is not just about fitness certificates. Since the buses were not plying for 18 months, the road taxes and insurances have to be renewed by many. Even worse, because of the prolonged shutdown of schools, there is also a shortage of qualified and trained school bus drivers,” Gopal Reddy said.
The problems faced by private schools are compounded by the fact that currently, according to the TRSMA, between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of parents have agreed to send their children to school beginning September 1.
There are 68 lakh school-going children in the state of whom 28 lakh are in government schools. The rest are in private schools. While not all private schools can afford to provide transport of their own, many do. “There are around 2,000 school buses and getting all of them on the road from September 1 is an impossible task,” Gopal Reddy said.
With vehicle insurance, road tax dues and servicing to ensure vehicle fitness expected to cost around `1 lakh per bus, he said that they have been urging the government to collect tax and ensure insurance payments be made monthly, at least till the economic crisis faced by most private schools is overcome.
Amarnath said the schools were hoping for some kind of relief from the government, at least for the next six months.“We expect some kind of relief for the next six months, we are left with a short notice, by September 1 fitness certificates have to be procured and taking all the vehicles to the RTA after getting them serviced is a cumbersome process,” he said.