The tussle between school managements and parents over payment of fees has further intensified. Parents are opposed to payment of fees amid the lockdown and Covid-19 pandemic, and have cited government orders that bar school managements from pressuring parents into paying fees. On the other hand, school managements argue that without receiving fees, starting a new academic year would be difficult.
Recently, 381 parents whose children attend Vibgyor High in Airoli wrote to the state government after the school did not accept their demand to cut fees by 20-25 per cent and rollback the 11 per cent fee hike for the upcoming academic year. On the school’s scholarship initiative for affected salaried parents, parents objected to submitting their salary certificate as well as salary slips for the past three months to avail a waiver.
In the past two years, the school has increased fees by nearly 22 per cent, the parents contended. After their letter to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, the district education officer warned the school against pressuring parents to pay fees and hiking fee.
According to the School Education department’s March 30 circular, private schools in the state cannot compel parents to pay fees during the lockdown. Another government notification issued in May warned schools against fee hike.
Vibgyor High CEO Manish Rastogi said, “We had announced the hike in February and more than half the parents had paid by March. Only a handful of parents are not being able to pay, for whom we are trying to make things easier. We made quarterly fee payments into monthly payments and are still receiving applications for our scholarship… The GR regarding fee hike rollback is being challenged in court.” The school requires funds to maintain infrastructure and set up online infrastructure, he added.
On Wednesday, three associations — Unaided Schools Forum, Private Unaided School Managements Association (PUSMA) and Independent English Schools Association (IESA) — representing over 600 schools in the state announced that it will not be possible to start a new academic year without receiving fees. “For many unaided schools, the pending fees for 2019-20 have also not been received, which is used to pay salaries of teachers for March-April-May. Fees have to come for the show to go on. Parents who can afford to pay fees should be able to do so, as private schools completely depend on these funds. If the schools are not able to pay teachers’ salaries, how can we ask them to continue working,” said Bharat Malik, member, PUSMA. Upgrading infrastructure for online teaching also requires substantial funds, he said.
Last week, the school education department released a list of nodal officers for each division, who can be contacted over fee-related complaints against schools. So far, the Mumbai division has received only two calls, said an official. “We directed the callers to connect with district education officers in their respective region, and the issue will be resolved locally in consultation with District Fee Regulation Committee,” he said.
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