Parents protest against private schools
Over 100 parents from different private schools of the city protested outside a private school in South City 2 on Friday against the practice of charging of fees other than tuition fees by the school authorities. Protesting parents complained that schools were putting pressure on them to pay the fee in addition to tuition fees and feared that students’ access to online classes might be suspended ahead of examinations.
Dhruv Bansal, whose daughter studies in Class 1 in a private school, said that the school was seeking fee in addition to the tuition fee. “The school is asking for all fee components except the transportation fee. They are simply adjusting other fee components into the tuition fee and not giving us any concessions even during the pandemic,” said Bansal, adding that school authorities were also reluctant in listening to the parents. “When we approach the school authorities with any issue, they simply ask us to pay the complete fee and do not entertain our queries,” said Bansal.
Following the closure of schools in March last year amid the coronavirus outbreak, the directorate of education had issued multiple directives pertaining to fee payment. Private schools were asked to charge fees under applicable heads only after the physical opening of schools, until which the schools were allowed to collect 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 allowed “reasonable fee collection” by schools, if online classes are held daily.
Another parent, who requested not to be named, said that the school had been bombarding parents with messages every month, asking them to pay the full fee. “Besides tuition fee, the school is asking for building and security fund, along with other components. We are being asked to pay for these components at a time when children have been taking online classes and not visiting the school,” said the parent.
She said that while the school had not blocked the school identity cards yet. However, the parent community was apprehensive that such steps could be taken once annual examinations start. “School authorities are saying that they are complying with the court orders and not listening to our legitimate demands. They are using pressure tactics to compel parents to pay the fee,” said the parent.
District education officer Indu Boken said that the court orders were clear, and the department would comply with them. “The additional charges beyond tuition fee were never waived off. Parents who are facing difficulty in paying the fee due to the pandemic can approach the school on an individual basis and the school will assess if they can be given a concession. However, the court order has also remarked that this provision cannot be misused,” said Boken.
Col (retd) KR Pratap Singh, senior vice-president of Haryana Progressive Schools Conference, said that the courts had allowed parents with genuine financial issues to approach schools for relief and such parents had been given relief too.
“There is no bar on the collection of all charges by the school as per the court order. The court order dated June 30th said that annual charges can be self-assessed by schools. The issue is that expenditure during the lockdown months didn’t go down. Schools take services from vendors and we need to pay them. Those expenses didn’t go down, but we did roll back certain charges by 10%,” said Singh.
Gurugram block education officer Sheel Kumari, who spoke to the protesting parents, said that she had asked parents to approach the respective school managements with proof of financial constraints. “Schools should listen to parents and not suspend classes without a dialogue. Parents should also take up concerns with school management. The department will go by the court order,” said Kumari.