Days after Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NNMC) issued showcause notices to six schools for violating provisions under Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 by removing students from online classes, a meeting was held on October 8 between commissioner Abhijit Bangar and representatives of popular schools in the area.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Bangar said, “We are taking the issue seriously. Schools have pointed to us that the High Court has issued an interim stay on the May 8 government resolution (which asks schools to not charge new and increased fees for 2020-21, but to continue with last year’s fees). However, we have cited the provisions under RTE Act 2009 and have warned schools of serious action against practices of harassing students or parents over fees.”
He added, “In the meeting we urged schools to discount fees for the facilities that are not being used, and also offer concessions and installments options to the parents.”
On Thursday, over 200 parents also gathered at NMMC to endorse a letter by social activist Vijay Sole. In his letter to the commissioner, Sole has demanded that schools charging over Rs 20,000 tuition fees should offer a 50 per cent waiver, a 50 per cent waiver should be considered for single parents and a 100 per cent fee waiver for parents who have had to pay huge sums for coronavirus treatment. Serious action should be taken against schools who remove students from online classes despite notices by municipal corporations, said the letter submitted on behalf of parents.
NMMC has about 455 schools under its jurisdiction, of which over 330 are private schools. “The commissioner was approving of our demands and assured to help us in the matter. We have suggested setting up a combined meeting between school representatives and parents,” said Arjun Naik, a parent.
On October 3, notices were sent to St Lawrence School in Vashi, Orchids International School in Koparkhairane, Terna Orchids The International School in Koparkhairane, St Augustine’s High School in Nerul, New Horizon Public School in Airoli and Ryan International School in Sanpada for “removing students of class 1 to 8 from online classes and compelling students to pay fees”.
Schools were asked to reply to the notices within 48 hours. “You have deprived students from compulsory education and also caused mental harassment to students by violating the provisions of RTE Act 2009,” said the notice signed by Bangar.
When contacted, principal of New Horizons Public School in Airoli Nicholas Correa said, “The allegations against us are false. If fees are not paid, how will the schools run? We have reiterated the decision by the High Court in our reply, and have stated that sending a notice to parents is not a violation of law. At the same time, we have given parents an option to pay at a later stage, waived bus fees and have announced that there won’t be a hike in fees for the next year.”
On September 22, NMMC had also issued guidelines to all schools, urging them to refrain from forcing parents to pay fees. Bifurcation of the fees charged by the schools should be uploaded on the school’s website, and a complaint box in the schools should be made available for parents to raise issues, said the circular. NMMC has also formed a Complaints Resolution Committee to look into individual matters and help solve them, it said.
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