Private schools in the state cannot charge any kind of fee from students for tuition or other co-curricular activities as long as the schools are closed and cannot hike the fee for academic session 2020-21, according to a government resolution (GR) issued by the Gujarat education department.
Soon after the state government made the GR public, self-financed schools’ associations in the state held a meeting and announced that they will suspend all academic and administrative work from Thursday till the state government withdraws the decision. Some private schools issued circulars announcing suspension of all online classes and termed the demands “totally unreasonable and absolutely unacceptable”.
The GR, issued on July 16, stated that the amount already deposited by parents will be adjusted against the fee later and no school can expel any student for not depositing fee till June 30. “Schools cannot charge for any facility not provided by them,” it added.
These decisions were taken following several public interest litigations (PILs) in the Gujarat High Court during the Covid-19 pandemic pertaining to several issues, including private schools demanding fee for the lockdown period and online classes.
“Under High Court’s order of June 19, 2020, the education department had to work on issues including modalities for online education provided by private schools, to deliberate how effective this online education is for younger children, clarification on fee charged by schools during lockdown period and cancelling admission of students who have not submitted fee till June 30,” stated the GR. “The state government has decided that schools during the period they were closed, till they resume, they cannot charge any kind of tuition fee,” the GR stated.
When asked why the GR was declared on Wednesday, Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama said, “The Gujarat High Court had sought the government’s opinion on these issues. So we produced this Government Resolution (GR) as an affidavit in the High Court as the opinion of the government.” The next hearing by the High Court is on July 24.
Bharat Gajipara, president of the Gujarat Self-Financed School Management Association, the largest association of private schools in the state, said, “At the mandal meeting, all representatives protested the order and we decided to stop all school activities, including online classes. Teachers will go home… we can only pay them salaries after the schools reopen physically.”
The association has 8,500 self-financed schools under it with 30 lakh students who are attending online classes now. “For the past four months, self-financed schools have been facing financial difficulties and managing salaries of their staff…,” a statement by the association said.
“The GR states that while all schools were closed down on March 16, 2020, the education department announced the new academic session from June 8, 2020, but at the same time the government says that online education is not actual education,” it added.
The Association for Promotion of Prominent Schools in Ahmedabad also supported the protest and declared to suspend online classes till the GR is withdrawn. “This is the only government that is saying that online education is not real education. Schools that have given 100 per cent salary are equated with those that have given only 50 per cent… How can we pay six months’ salary without fees? Order should be passed for schools on case to case basis…,” said Manan Choksi, former president of the association.
Earlier, various representations were made to the state government on schools demanding fee for the lockdown period and forcing parents to pay it.
Amit Panchal, president of Wali Swaraj Manch, who had also filed a PIL in the HC, said, “These decisions are a big relief for parents as private schools were working on their whims, demanding unjustified fee and threatening to cancel the admissions if parents failed to pay it by June 30.”
The GR noted that many self-financed schools have not paid salaries to their academic and non-academic staff or have cut down their salaries by 40-50 per cent. “…In the prevailing situation when parents are in financial difficulties…, the Self-Financed Schools Management Association in its letter on June 26, 2020, declined to reduce their fee,” the GR stated.
As per Education Department’s notification issued on July 17, 2018, fee for various co-curricular activities taken by students was decided by the state government.
The Self-Financed School Management Association in its letter on Aril 14, 2020 had stated that they will not hike any kind of fee for the academic session 2020-21.Thus, no private school can hike fee for the academic session 2020-21, the state government further stated, adding that if any parent has already deposited the fee, it has to be adjusted in the fee for coming months.
The Gujarat High Court’s order on June 19, 2020, said that no school can expel students or cancel the admission of those who have not deposited fee by June 30, 2020.
The state government in its GR stated that all these issues were under discussion of the state government when the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) issued PRAGYATA, guidelines for digital education on July 14. So, it has been decided that all schools — government, grant-in-aid and self financed — of the state will work as per these guidelines. For online education, the state government said that schools have to promote and circulate study material prepared by expert teachers so that it can reach as many students as possible.
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