Several parents of children studying at Amanora School in Hadapsar gathered at the institution on Monday to protest against alleged discrimination meted out to their wards by the school authorities. While some parents called up the child helpline to report the incident, the school principal has denied the charges of discrimination.
The parents are part of a group that is protesting the fee hike, which they claim is illegal. Some parents have not paid the revised fees for the new academic year. Even for the previous year, some of the parents paid only part of the fees, which they said is allowed as per the law, and not the entire amount that the school had stipulated.
On Monday, which was the first day of the new academic session for Class I, the parents alleged that the students whose fees had not been paid in full, were made to sit in a separate classroom, not issued permanent identity cards or a school handbook, among other things.
Jagdish R, a parent, said the first indication came through an email on Sunday. “First of all, the mail was addressed to an ex-parent, which we fail to understand, as our children are transitioning from the pre-primary to primary. How does that make us ex-parents? In the email, they warned us asking us to pay the fees by April 13, else they would take action.
On Monday, when our children went to the school, they took them in without any problem. But it is only when they came out that we realised that the children were made to sit in a separate class and no classes were conducted for them,” he said.
Another parent, Pushkar Ranade, who claimed that his child was also made to sit in a separate classroom, said the child was initially allotted Class 1F. But the identity card given to him is temporary and has no mention of a class or division.
Another parent, Amit Sharma, said the parents learnt from other parents who had paid the fees that classes were conducted for other students. “Also the school takes away those books on the first day which are to be kept in school. We learnt that they did that with other students but not with our children. No handbook was given to us,” he said.
The parents called up the child helpline number 1098 from the school premises itself. Savita Divate, a member of DnyanaDevi, the 24X7 helpline for children, reached the spot. “Actually, we wanted that the school authorities and parents be made to sit face to face and discuss the issues. But the school did not allow the parents to come in. So, I met the school principal to clarify the issue. But she denied that there was any discrimination. The main issue is over fee hike and that is why, we have asked the parents to meet us tomorrow (Wednesday) with all relevant documents. We need to study the case in detail,” she said.
Despite visiting the school, principal Meera Nair refused to meet anyone. Later in the evening, she called up to clarify her stance. “There was no discrimination. The children are moving from Prep 2 to Class I, which is formal education and hence, the school had asked the parents to fill up a form confirming that they want to continue the education. The parents were also requested to pay the first of the three installments of fees by April 1. When they failed to do so, we gave them two reminders and set the deadline on April 13. On Monday, the school transport picked up the children although they have not paid the transport fees. They were taken to the classroom and later sent back home safely,” she said.
Asked why the children were not given permanent ID cards and allotted divisions, she said: “None of the children were given permanent ID cards, even those who had paid fees. We have a colour coding system and depending on how they come to school, by bus or on their own, there is a particular colour on the card. Also, they were not given a section since we are not yet sure if they are willing to continue education at the school since their parents have not even filled up the forms.”
On the issue of fee hike, Nair said the parents had earlier complained about the same to the divisional fee regulation authority in 2017. But that application was quashed. “I think they should know that even if there is a dispute, till proven illegal by relevant authorities or court, they have to pay the fees. What is this practice of not paying fees because they don’t want to or paying only part of it? Forget about this year’s fees, they have not even cleared last year’s dues,” she said.
-With inputs from Aakriti Bhalla