Parents of private schools protest against ‘unreasonable’ fee collection
Over 100 parents from at least five prominent private schools of the city protested at the Mini Secretariat on Tuesday against alleged overcharging of tuition fees by the school authorities, with most of them complaining that students’ full access to online classes have been blocked after they objected to paying the fees.
Parents complained that they have been getting emails and WhatsApp messages from schools regarding full payment of fees at a time when schools have been closed for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senior district administration officials, however, said that a clarification has been sought from the district education officer on the matter. “The details of the matter have been submitted to the deputy commissioner, while a clarification has been sought from the district education officer to resolve the issue,” said Siddharth Dahiya, city magistrate, who met the protesting parents.
Officials of the education department were unavailable for comment.
Since schools were shut in March 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak, the directorate of education has issued several directives in this regard. Private schools were asked to charge fees under applicable heads only after the physical opening of schools, until which the schools were allowed to collection fees only under the tuition head. Later, parents who were affected financially due to the pandemic were also allowed to apply for exemptions. After the schools had challenged the reduction in fee, the Punjab and Haryana high court last July had allowed “reasonable fee collection” by schools, if online classes are held daily and had ruled that teachers’ salaries should not be cut.
Currently, the tuition fee paid by parents has been adjusted by schools under different heads, complained parents at the site. “They are embarrassing kids in online classes by asking for fees,” said Bharati Sharma, whose son studies in class 2. “From July onwards, schools have been asking for full payment of fees under different heads like infrastructure, examination, resources, health and hygiene. When schools are closed, why should we pay the additional fee, except for the tuition charges?”
In November 2020, over 800 parents of different schools had connected on the Telegram app to share their grievances on unnecessary amounts charged by schools.
Sagarika Gupta, the mother of two daughters who are in class 4, said that schools are using pressure tactics as the annual examinations are just around the corner. “School authorities never replied or responded to our queries. Therefore, we had to protest. For an academic year, we are spending almost ₹2.5 lakh when the schools are closed. Although we have paid the tuition fees, schools have blocked access to study material for the examination,” said Gupta, even as other parents nodded in agreement.
A parent at the protest site, on the condition of anonymity, shared a message shared by the school sent on Tuesday, stating that the final results of their ward would be held if dues are not cleared.
Another parent, who also requested not to be named, said, “The school authority has said that they will give a rebate of ₹15,000 but the annual fee has to be paid.”
Dhruv Bansal, the father of a class 11 student, said, “Schools cannot ask for the annual fee, according to the court and education department orders. If the issue is not addressed, we will sit on a hunger strike.”
Col (retd) KR Pratap Singh, senior vice-president of Haryana Progressive Schools Conference, said, “There is no bar on the collection of all charges by the school, as per the ruling of the Punjab and Haryana high court in July and October last year. Schools can assess their fee structure, and some schools reduced the annual charges by 10%. Parents can be exempted only if they seek relief.”
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