State, central govts come down on schools, colleges flouting fee norms during lockdown
The Delhi government has taken a strong view against private schools in the city hiking fees without permission and violating provisions of the Disaster Management Act presently enforced in the city in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. The Directorate of Education (DoE) last week issued an order to a south Delhi private school over the matter.
The move came even as the higher education sector regulator the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) informed colleges under its purview not to pressure students into paying fees till the lockdown continues.
In an order issued on Wednesday, AICTE Member Rajive Kumar said that it had come to the notice of the regulator that some institutions were insisting that students should pay the fees including admission fees.
Significantly, the Union ministry of human resource development has received a series of requests and demands from different quarters to address the issue of institutions demanding fees both in school and higher education sector.
Parents of students enrolled in private schools across the city have complained of fees being hiked and institutions also quarterly fees instead of monthly, pulling on their already tight purse strings amid the lockdown.
Many parents have asked the DoE to intervene.
In an order issued to the south Delhi school on April 11, the DoE said, “It has been brought to our notice that Apeejay School, Saket, a private unaided school has increased the fee illegally without taking cognisance of the prevailing situation in view of the announcement of lockdown by the central government and despite the enforcement of Disaster Management Act, 2005, and Delhi Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 regulations, 2020, under the Epidemic Diseases Act 1897, for prevention and containment of COVID-19 and also without compliance of the mandatory provisions of Delhi Education Act, 1973.”
DoE director Binay Bhushan said the order was issued after the body received multiple complaints against the school.
Parents of students in Apeejay School alleged that the school had hiked the fees by 15-20% in April this year. “The school is constantly calling us and pressuring us to submit the hiked fees. Many of us are not in a position to pay even the normal fee amid the lockdown,” said a parent who is member of Naya Samaj Parents Association of the School, the school’s official parents’ body.
The DoE also ordered the school to not increase any fee or compel students to pay increased fees or arrears till further orders. “The school shall, in no case, deny access to online education to students who are unable to pay the fee due to financial crises out of the closure of business activities in the ongoing lockdown condition,” the order stated, adding, that the failure to comply with the instruction can also invite action under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
School principal Smita Amit refused to comment on the matter. However, in a e-mail statement sent to Hindustan Times, school authorities said “It’s working in compliance of the order issued by the DoE.”
Parents whose children are enrolled in Adarsh Public School in Vikaspuri and Guru Harkrishan Public School in Kailash Colony also alleged that the schools have increased the fee by 10% without taking prior approval from the DoE. The mother of a class 6 student at Adarsh School said, “The school has increased the fee by 10%. We have no idea why the fee was revised when the government has ordered against it.”
Pooja Sehgal, principal of the school, said they had sent a letter to the DoE for approval for the fee hike “We have not revised the fee structure in the last four years, which is why the revision was needed,” she said. Officials in the DoE, however, said they have not yet granted permission to the school.
The principal of Guru Harkrishan Public School, Gurpreet Singh, however, said that while the school management had decided to increase the fee by 10%, it is yet to implement the decision. “Immediately after the decision was taken, the lockdown was announced. The parents were informed about it but we are not yet charging the revised fee,” she said.
Advocate Khagesh Jha of Social Jurist, an NGO, said the Delhi government should issue an order to all schools asking them not to hike fees, and avoid action against students unable to pay the prevailing fees in the current situation.
“Instead of waiting for individual complaints, the DoE should immediately direct all schools against harassing the parents in the time of the pandemic. We have also sent multiple complaints of fee hike by schools to the DoE. They should also issue a helpline for such complaint in the time of the lockdown,” he said.
The AICTE also said it had been made aware that some institutions had either terminated staff members or had not paid their faculty.
“It is clarified that salary and other dues to the faculty/staff members will be released for the duration of lockdown and terminations, if any, made during the lockdown will be withdrawn,” the AICTE communiqué said.