Albeit not a direct fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the least that was expected is the potentially disruptive impact on the running of missionary schools in Kolkata, some of them the finest centres of school education in the city.

Attitudes have stiffened considerably with the Church of North India (CNI), which is the overarching authority, stoutly ruling out the intervention of the Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian schools, saying it has no authority to decide on the fee structure, indeed a vital element in the running of educational institutions ~ from the “pre-school” stage to the IITs and IIMs.

The Association is reported to have discussed possible waivers in school fees in view of the financial crisis caused by the pandemic. On the face of it, this is a sympathetic gesture not the least because classes, let alone exams, have been in abeyance for more than two months. And with the school authorities readily endorsing the state government’s decision to keep the school gates locked till 30 June, it is improbable that the normal schedule will be restored any time soon. Unavoidably, three months of the academic calendar have been wasted.

For all that, a stark disconnect is palpable enough. While the tentative decision on the fee waiver was indicated by the heads of schools, it has been vehemently opposed by the Bishop of the Kolkata diocese of CNI, who doubles up as chairman of the respective governing boards. Ergo, it appears to be a fundamental disconnect between Bishop’s House on Jawaharlal Nehru Road and the heads of schools. It bears recall that a not dissimilar disconnect last year between the CNI and several prominent institutions had impinged on the functioning of schools during the tenure of the previous Bishop. More basically, it is yet another instance of punctured egos, if Tuesday’s statement from Bishop’s House is any indication ~ “The association has no authority to comment regarding waiver of any fee payable by our schools, which are governed by the Bishop of Kolkata, CNI.

Our schools are thereby withdrawing their membership from the Association of Heads of Anglo-Indian Schools in India, West Bengal branch”. In the interest of learning, the conflict of interest needs urgently to be resolved. It is fair to presume that the principals had spelt out their decision in consultation with the respective school authorities generally. Yet questions are bound to arise as to whether the economics of school education had been worked out. There is no such indication either in the statement of the school heads, still less in the reponse of the Bishop. The decision must of necessity be taken by the boards of schools… and not the principals. Clearly, the modus operandi has not been followed; in the event both sides have gone on overdrive. The children deserve better. They really do.