New Delhi: To pay or not to pay, waiver or moratorium--parents of school children are confused with announcements of several state governments offering relaxations for school fees during the coronavirus lockdown period in the country.
Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments have announced that schools should not pressurise parents to pay fees during the lockdown. However, there is no clarity among parents about whether no fees will be charged during the period or they will have to be paid later.
According to various school authorities, some parents have assumed that there will be no fees for the period and numerous queries are being received by them about fee waivers.
"There is no clarity. Schools are still charging miscellaneous fees like meal charges and transport charges. No body knows what has been waived and what is still there. When we reach out to schools they say its only a relaxation in the time and not the amount," Sandeep Makhija, a Gurgaon resident said.
Similar concerns are being faced by Rajasthan's Preeti Vashishth, "The government circular says that schools should not take any advance fees during the period but there is no clarity on whether the fees will have to be paid later or not for the lockdown period".
Rajneesh Kumar, whose two kids study in a Noida school, said, "If the fees is anyway supposed to be paid then I would rather accommodate it in my budget now rather than facing a burden later. With the announcement it looked like a relief but I don't know if it actually is. Having clear instructions would have been helpful".
According to representative of a leading private school in Gurgaon, parents are calling them with queries about why fees statements have been generated when there is a government order.
"We explain to each of the parent that the fees has not been waived and only the deadlines have been relaxed. The teachers are working full time, regular classes are happening online, the staff needs to be paid salaries too," she said.
Another school spokesperson in Gurgaon said, "We are not forcing the parents to pay right away, the deadlines have been extended already and a genuine case can be evaluated accordingly even later but we are advising parents that whoever can pay right now should pay. The fees cannot be waived off. Parents are calling with queries like why meal charges are being levied. We have a full fledged kitchen and team handling it. So will we not be paying them during the period as no meals are being cooked?"
Both the schools did not wish to be identified.
Noida's Kothari International School has waived day-boarding and transport fees for months of April and May.
"The school continues to meet its commitments and responsibilities of salaries, housekeeping, security, sanitation, tank cleaning, hardware, software, buses, networking, Wi-Fi, CCTV, up gradation of equipment, building repairs, sports equipment, estate maintenance and pest control," a letter from the school said.
It adds, "While the school needs to continue to meet all these commitments, we fully understand that in the prevailing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, restricted access to banks, general hardships of the self employed businesses and the slowdown in economy we would need to support our parent fraternity pro-actively and at the same time continue to meet the high quality standards of infrastructure, teaching and deliverables to our students as every year. We have waived transport and day boarding fees."
Punjab government, however, had on Thursday directed schools to release full salaries to staff and not to force parents for books, uniforms and transportation fees and said that no school can demand fees from students on the pretext of online teaching classes during lockdown period.
While several parents have reached out to Delhi government seeking fees waiver during the period, no decision has been taken in this regard yet.
"We have been getting messages from parents that fee during the lockdown should be waived but schools say that how will they give salaries, which is also a genuine concern. The government has actively worked for parents as far as the matters about fees is concerned but right now it is a tricky situation. If anybody has concrete suggestions about a balanced way out of the situation, we request to share it with us," Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said last week in an online interaction with parents.
The country is under a lockdown due to the COVID-19 situation. However, schools and colleges were closed a week before the lockdown was announced.