Coronavirus pandemic | Parents seek waivers, rollback of fee hikes as schools suspend classes
Even as schools are struggling to maintain academic continuity due to the coronavirus outbreak, parents are hoping for some fee waivers as regular classes have been suspended.
Across the country, parents of school children are sending appeals to the state governments to seek fee waivers and prohibition of fee hikes during this period.
Though many school are trying to make up partly by online classes, students will lose some part of their academic year. Hence there is a call for a partial fee waiver for March, April and May when schools have moved to virtual classes.
However, sources told Moneycontrol that the department of school education of the human resource development ministry is unlikely to take a decision on this and would leave it to individual states and schools to take a call.
“My employer has announced a 30 percent salary cut till September 2020. While I am not trying to calculate how to handle the monthly expenses, my child’s school fees has been increased from this academic session. When the schools are anyway not conducting physical classes, why can’t they be considerate?” said Kolkata-resident Avik Bose.
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Bose who is the sole earning member in his six-member family has also appealed to the state government to seek relief from the fee hike.
Meanwhile, West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee has urged private schools to refrain from implementing any fee hike and rollback any such decision.
The minister said in a Facebook post that the government is in receipt of several complaints from guardians on fee hikes despite the macroeconomic situation in India being impacted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
A few state governments like Punjab are also taking action against private schools arbitrarily hiking fees during a economic crisis situation period.
In fact, a petition is doing rounds on online platform Change.org where parents have sought government intervention to stop all fee hikes. This petition has 26,000 signatures so far.
Kavita Bhatia, a Mumbai-based banker whose daughter studies at an international school, is worried about paying full-year fees, which has been hiked by 25 percent.
“My bank is barely doing any business and there are talks of a layoff. If I pay the annual fee of Rs 3 lakh right now, what if I lose my job? How will I save any money? We did request the school to allow us to make quarterly payments considering the scenario but they refused,” she added.
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A few schools in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are offering between 5-15 percent refund for parents who are willing to pay the entire year’s fees. However, no fee-breaks or payment delays are being given.
Uma Kadhir, a domestic help in Mumbai said that her daughter’s school raised the annual fees by Rs 4,000 without any notice. Further, those who do not pay the fees on time will have to pay a penalty of Rs 1,000.
“I am barely getting any work due to the lockdown. How will I manage the higher fees? The school should have ideally allowed us to not pay fees till July 2020,” she added.
While the respective state governments are in talks with schools to ensure that fee payment deadlines are extended up to June 30 for the 2020-2021 academic year, no fee waivers will be provided.
“Fee waivers can be done for only students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and not as a general rule. Schools anyway have certain flexibilities for such students. Hence, it is not viable to offer fee waiver to everyone be it for one month or for March to May,” said the vice president of a pan-India school chain.
Typically, several schools offer 30-40 percent fee discount to families below the poverty line. These fee waivers are managed either through corporate donations or through special funds set up for this purpose. Hence, a large-scale waiver is ruled out, even if it is for the month of April when not a single day of school is likely to be held.
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