Close to 1,000 schools in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad are expected to go on a three-day suspension of educational activity to protest non-payment of fee by majority of students from December 15.
Representatives of Federation of Unaided Private Schools Association of Maharashtra made the announcement on Monday afternoon that the protest is a warning against a bigger shutdown in the coming months, unless “capable parents” pay up.
“Since the beginning of June, we started offering online classes to students keeping in mind that education and learning outcomes should not suffer due to the pandemic. Our teaching staff has had to rise to the situation and learn new skills and techniques to keep students engaged and ensure learning. While our members have made concessions for parents facing financial difficulties and have approached school managements, we have observed that many parents capable of paying fees are failing to do so, which has now made us incapable of running operations,” said Shridhar Iyer, secretary of the school association.
Last week, the local education department served notices to many city schools over complaints that online classes had been discontinued due to non-payment of school fee. While local education authorities threatened schools with de-recognition and cancellation of No Objection Certificate, which is mandatory for running schools in the state, the move by the private school association is being seen as a retaliation.
“We compiled data from across schools and found that around 30 per cent parents have paid the fees and around 10 to 15 per cent parents have approached schools with financial difficulties. The other half has simply stopped all communication, neither paid fees nor approached school. In fact, many have blocked school numbers or refuse to speak, thinking that they will avoid paying fees this year. But schools have salaries to pay to teachers and staff, rents, EMIs. All of it is becoming unmanageable. Parents who have paid fees are demanding to know why others are getting away without paying,” said Rajendra Singh, president of the association.
School managements have threatened that the upcoming strike is only an indication of what lies ahead from January if the fee is not paid. “The schools have no money left to run operations, so even if they are willing, they are not capable. If fees are still not paid, we might completely suspend teaching activities from January for all students,” Singh added.
Members said parents who have paid the fees have been protesting over the three-day shutdown. According to school owners, paying parents are demanding that online teaching continue for their children excluding those who had not paid.
“But we have no choice, government representatives said we cannot leave out some students or they will revoke our NOCs. So we have no choice but to stop teaching for all students since we have no money to operate anyway,” Singh said.
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