The country’s move towards a cashless economy triggered by the recent demonetisation has spurred Mumbai schools to introduce cash cards, food coupons and mobile wallets for students to buy stationery, snacks and beverages on campus from the upcoming academic year.
Currently, only annual or term fees are accepted online in most schools. Students have to pay in cash to eat in the canteen or for field trips, sports days, parties and others. But many schools are now trying to go completely cashless.
Singapore International School at Dahisar, for instance, will bring in a cash card system for its canteen. Students will be able to top-up the card online.
“Boarders or day-scholars had to buy coupons by paying cash over the counter earlier, but with the demonetisation drive, we began contemplating a cashless system for these transactions too,” said Kaisar Dopaishi, principal of the school.
Besides helping the school go entirely cashless, the move will help in keeping tabs on how much students spend and limit excessive spending, he said. “Our only concern was that kids might lose the card or it might end up in the wrong hands,” added Dopaishi.
Another school, Jamnabai Narsee School at Juhu is working on online payment for food coupons. Parents usually buy lunch coupons or cards at the beginning of the year by paying cash. “We started cashless and paperless drive three years ago,” said Zeenat Bhojabhoy, principal of the ICSE affiliated school. “Except for food coupons, everything else was paid through cheques, bank transfers and online.”
However, some schools are facing problems in going cashless.
Schools planning to start mobile wallet facilities for payment are worried about maintaining payment records. “We are unsure if mobile wallets can be integrated seamlessly into our current system of maintaining data,” said Rohan Bhat, chairperson of the Children’s Academy Group of Schools in Kandivli and Borivli.
Bhat said the schools have tied up with banks for fee payments. The banks send MIS (management information system) reports regularly to schools. These reports get directly absorbed into the school’s data system.
“This way, we have eliminated any manual entry of data. In addition, we can easily check if any parent has missed a payment,” Bhat said, adding, “We are trying to find mobile wallets that can follow the same method of keeping records.”
Parents have welcomed these initiatives as it makes fee payments hassle-free. “I have started paying school fees online. It is very convenient and saves time even though I am charged Rs50 to 60 more on such transactions,” said Aayushi Potdar, a parent from Vashi.
However, education activists said they continue to receive complaints of schools charging donations or demanding cash payments. A school in Powai last month refused to accept cheque or online payment for sports day. It relented and accepted online payments after parents complained against it.
“Schools maybe charging fees online, but they are collecting lakhs of rupees in cash as donation during admissions,” said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education, a non-government organisation. “The education department must probe this.”
How they are adapting to digital push
1.Singapore International School, Dahisar: From the next academic year, it will introduce a card system for canteen and other purchases to be made on the campus. Students will be able to top-up the card online and then use it for buying snacks and drinks
2. Sacred Heart School, Kalyan: In September, the school introduced online fee payment via ICICI bank. Parents can use their credit and debit cards to pay full fees or opt for EMIs
3.Children’s Academy Group of Schools, Kandivli and Borivli: School fees are paid online via Axis bank. But they are looking to tie up with mobile wallets such as Paytm for small amounts charged throughout the year for field trips, sports day, parties or other activities
4.St Joseph’s Convent School, Bandra: School fees are paid through Bank of India or Citizen Bank. But parents have to pay cash for other transactions, including canteen bills
5.Jamnabai Narsee School, Juhu: The school is working on a system to purchase food coupons online from the coming June. Parents buy lunch coupons or cards at the beginning of the year
6. Campion School, Fort: It allows parents to pay school fees through a bank gateway, made available on the school website.
Pressure from the government:
CBSE: On December 14, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) directed its 991 affiliated schools to start collecting fees through cashless methods. The board has asked schools to find new ways of online, cashless transactions, and begin it from January, 1 2017
Maharashtra education department: The state school education department is considering making school, college and exam fee payments cashless. On November 30, education minister Vinod Tawde got 70 members of his staff to use State Bank of India’s ‘Buddy App’ — the bank’s mobile wallet payment system and plans to extend this to schools soon.