Ten children have approached the Delhi High Court against directives issued to them by a prominent city school to pay their fee or face expulsion. All 10 had been admitted to the school under the EWS quota and had completed class VIII in the academic session 2018-2019.
Children admitted under the EWS quota are entitled to free education, which is to be reimbursed to the school by the state government.
On August 13, the children received a “final reminder” from Air Force Bal Bharti School, asking them to pay the fee for two academic quarters, spanning from April to September.
“You are advised to pay the school dues latest by August 19 else the name of your child will be struck off from the school rolls…,” read the letters to their parents, which had been signed by principal Sunita Gupta. They have been asked to pay fees amounting to Rs 36,620.
Most of these children are residents of Nizamuddin basti.
This is not the first time the school has sent such a communication to the students.
Earlier this year, The Indian Express had reported that students who had been admitted to the school against seats reserved for the EWS category and were going to complete class VIII had received a letter from the principal, telling them that they would no longer be eligible for free education once they reach class IX.
“As per the Right to Education Act 2009, the school is required to provide free and compulsory education up to elementary level i.e. up to class VIII only. Thereof, w.e.f. 1 April 1, 2019 your son/daughter… will not be eligible for freeship category. You are, therefore, advised to make suitable arrangement,” the letters had read.
This year, hundreds of students who had been admitted under this provision to class I in 2011— the year the RTE rules were implemented— find themselves in this vulnerable position after having completed class VIII, with several schools pushing parents to pay the fees.
The petition by the students in court draws attention to the fact that the school in question had been constructed on land granted by public authorities such as the DDA at a nominal cost, which have rules on EWS students pre-dating the Right to Education Act, 2009.
The Delhi Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Rules, 2011, state that such schools “shall continue to fulfill their obligation for providing free education beyond elementary education and till completion of secondary/senior secondary education, as the case may be…”
Principal Gupta said that schools are well within their right to ask for fee from the students concerned.
“The freeship provision in the Right to Education Act is only till class VIII or till the student turns 14 years old, whichever is sooner,” she said.
Asked about the unique conditions binding schools such as hers, she said the school was “seeking legal counsel on the matter”.