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Should Schools Charge Full Tuition And Transportation Fee During Lockdown?

Outlook is in possession of a fee slip which the Modern School in Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh sent to a parent. The school has raised full tuition and transportation fee for three months in advance starting from April 20 for Rs 39,600.

Should Schools Charge Full Tuition And Transportation Fee During Lockdown?
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Schools in the country have been shut much before the national lockdown of 24, March and are likely to be closed at least till 3, May. But they have slapped full tuition fee on parents for this period.

Outlook is in possession of a fee slip which the Modern School in Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh sent to a parent. The school has raised full tuition and transportation fee for three months in advance starting from April 20 for Rs 39,600.

“Parents are in distress for various reasons. Companies have deferred salaries and many people have lost their jobs. It is illegal for schools to force parents to pay the full fee. The government must step in to stop this,” says the father of a 1st standard student.

“Let alone waving off the full fee, schools are not even considering any rebate in transportation charges. That’s ridiculous,” says another parent. In Kolkota, parents of the Delhi Public School, Ruby Park have launched a signature campaign to request the school to reduce school and transport fees.

At least three states, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have issued various directions to schools asking them to defer the payment of fee but they haven’t asked the school to waive off or give any concession.

“We have directed schools not to deprive children of attending online classes whose parents are unable to pay their fees due to financial constraints. The school can collect the fees at a later date," says a senior official from the Haryana education department.

Lawyer and activist Ashok Aggarwal has demanded demanded full waiver as schools have enough corpus of funds to bear their fixed expenses like teachers' and other employees salaries. He says the Centre and state governments must pass a strict order asking them to waive off tuition fees these three months. “These public schools mint money, like demanding huge donations during admission. Besides, all of them have an emergency fund. They can use it for meeting school expenses,” he says.

But schools say about 95 per cent of their expenses are fixed costs like salary of teachers and other school staff which they to account for whether they are open or not. The variable expenses like fuel, electricity, stationery items etc form only five per cent of the total running of the school. At this juncture, salary cuts for teachers and staff, who are anyway paid meagre amounts, are unthinkable they argue.

"We are providing online classes but we are maintaining our full workforce and all the teachers are available throughout the working hours for the students,” Uttam Singh, says Principal, Jindal Public School, Dwarka. “The PM has directed that people with low salary should not get affected. So we cannot deduct the teachers’ salary which will demotivate them,” says Manit Jain, Chairman, Ficci Alliance for Re-Imagining School Education (Arise) which represents over a hundred prestigious schools in the country.

Jain disputes the charge that schools have huge corpus of funds to draw from. He says schools that have been existence for over 20 years may have some reserves but most of that too was wiped out in implementing the 6th and 7th pay commission.

“School fees hasn’t increased in Delhi in the last five years. Schools don’t have any reserve. It is difficult to run a school with the current fee structure. If we waive off fee, we will not be able to pay money to teachers,” Jain says. He does agree that some parents genuinely can't pay up the fees. “In times of distress, we should decide what is essential. It is the responsibility of the parents to save institutions. Only those people should come forward to take benefit of a fee waiver who really need it,” says Jain.

Educationists say that it should be left to the state governments to decide as every state and district has its own issues. Vineet Joshi, former Chairman, CBSE says that both parents and school should look beyond their narrow self-interest.

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