No fees, No education? Pune school refuses online classes to students due to non-payment of fees
Maharashtra Education Department has, time and again, asked schools not to ban students from attending classes for non-payment of fees. However, several such cases are still coming up.
“Whenever we ask questions, we are humiliated. Our children have been denied attendance to classes since June,” says a distraught parent of Walnut School in Fursungi, Pune. Several parents of the school have complained that their children have been deprived of online education since June because they have not paid the fees. The Maharashtra Education Department has, time and again, asked schools not to ban students from attending classes for non-payment of fees. However, several such cases are still coming up.
“Parents of around 20 children, who are facing the same issue, are in my contact. There will certainly be more. Since the month of May, we have been writing to them via email, requesting them to give us concession in fees, and more time to complete the payment. We have also asked them to exempt the fees of educational materials, uniforms, annual days, as the school is going to be held online this year. Instead, they took away the access of our children, because we could not pay the fees,” the parent said on condition of anonymity.
Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown has cost many people their livelihoods. Several are looking at losses in businesses, job losses as well as pay cuts. In such times, the Education Department has asked the schools to be sensitive to the issue, and not deprive any child of their right to education, because the parents were unable to pay fees in these challenging times.
“We all have been going through a financial crisis. The school has now appointed a financing company and we have been asked to pay fees in installments, at an interest rate of 2.75 percent. We, who have not at all been able to pay fees have been marked as defaulters anyway. But even those parents, who paid the fees for the first term with help of loans, but could not do so in the second term, have been marked as defaulters too,” the parent added.
A parent at Walnut School, Shivane also shared that several there have been facing a similar problem. “I didn’t even ask the school to exempt me from paying the fees. I only asked them to give me two months' time to make financial arrangements. However, they did not even allow that. When a few parents, and a local activist who tagged along with one of us, went to the school to talk about the issue, it led to arguments, which were not taken well by the school. After this, when I finally managed to arrange for the money, the school would not regenerate a payment link for me. When I gave an application to Uttamnagar Police Station in this regard, the school asked me to take the complaint back, and they will start online classes for my child, but that has still not happened,” the parent said.
A letter, signed by the Pune Zilla Parishad (ZP) Education Officer (Secondary) Dr Ganpat More, to the Walnut School, Fursungi, accessed by Indie Journal clearly mentions that the school cannot cause students’ academic loss by depriving them of online education. If the school is found doing so, action could be taken against it. However, the parent has added that the school has denied providing any information on whether it has replied to the letter or not.
“The fees that I pay for my child include Rs 7,500 as fees for various annual functions like sports day, annual gathering, carnival day, etc. When the students are not at all going to the school, how can the schools charge us for the same?” the parent from Walnut School, Fursungi questioned.
Screenshot of an email shared by a parent, signed by ‘Administrator, Walnut School at Shivane’ also stated, “We are permanently self-financed school under the concerned legislation of the State Government of Maharashtra. We have started the school for students who are willing to pay the Prescribed Fee Fixed or Approved in accordance with the legislation in this regard as school fees.”
The email also goes on to say that non-payment of fees in time will be considered as parents’ “non-willingness to continue to the admission of his/her ward for the remaining period of the academic year”.
When contacted by Indie Journal, Sunil Kurhade, Education Officer at Pune ZP said that the Education Department was aware of the issue, and a Block Education Officer has been asked to look into the matter and investigate. However, despite attempting to contact the school multiple times, even after leaving messages, Indie Journal could not get any response from the school in this regard.