New Delhi: “I am intelligent then why has the teacher removed me from the online class?” Ekta Juneja’s son studying in class five of Delhi Public School, Mathura Road wondered and asked his mother after he saw the ticker informing him that he has been removed from the WhatsApp group. Now, he can’t access online reading material and instructions. This removal comes when he is expecting to sit for half yearly examinations.
Parents like Juneja are disheartened as private schools are removing children from online classes due to non-payment of fees. Many parents joined strikes on Wednesday and Thursday outside the schools to fight for the children’s right to education, and demanded time to pay the fees, as during the lockdown the business were badly hit. The parents are mulling over dropping a year of their children, taking a legal recourse or just staying hopeful for the change of heart of schools’ administration ahead of half yearly examinations starting from September 14.
Juneja said, “Right now our income has been badly hit. I have to pay Rs 65,000 since April but this amount is not possible at a short notice. Some parents like us who have been affected by loss of jobs wanted some time for fees payment but the school authorities have removed our children from online classes.”
Her son is feeling dejected as he feels he won’t be able to study now. Two of Shipra Thukral’s daughters studying in elite private schools in primary sections have also been removed from the online classes. Her husband runs an advertising business, “He (the husband) sells calendars but people indulge in these expenses when there is money in the economy. Today the GDP is in the negative. Crores have lost work and salaried jobs. Who would buy the stuff from our shop in these times? We are asking for some concessions, we are not defaulters,” Thukral said.
These times are unprecedented, so “the school administration could have based their attitudes towards affected parents by seeing their past records. We have never delayed fee payment. This is because of the economic crisis and the lockdown. The schools could have given us some consideration with the economic crisis during the pandemic,” she added.
Apart from fighting for the school to include children in online classes, she is also understanding the trauma her 10-year-old daughter in class 4 is going through. “She is embarrassed that classmates in the WhatsApp group must have seen she has been removed just ahead of exams… ‘What will they think?’ she asked me. She is traumatised that classmates would discover we have not paid fees.”
She has to pay over a lakh for both children. The parents have written to the Delhi government and DOE to step in as some schools have violated the orders on not giving fee waivers and not increasing the tuition fees.
Letter on violation of laws
In a letter to the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal the DPS Parents’ Association requested in the subject,“to issue the direction to DPS Mathura Road to implement the DOE Order dated August 28 regarding waiver of annual charges and all other charges as well reducing the tuition fees as per the fee statement filed by them under 17(3) of DSEAR, 1973 during academic session 15-16. Immediately add all these students removed who were removed from online classes by DPS Mathura for not paying fees.”
According to the parents, the DOE order ensuring waiver of annual charges and reduction in tuition fees has not been followed.
The Association members wrote: “At the very outset we have to inform you that the children have been deprived of the online classes by DPS Mathura Road since August 7 2020 because their parents are not able to pay the fee charge. Some parents are even facing problems in maintaining livelihood during the pandemic situation.”
They said this “is in violation of DOE orders April 18 and August 28 2020 CBSE Affiliation Bylaws as well as it is clear contempt of Delhi High Court August 28 in Kumar Mangalam Parents Association case.”
Giving reasons for their inability to pay fees, the association members wrote, “As you know, during this pandemic more than 2 crores have lost their jobs and each and every business is struggling to survive. When the government is supporting citizens’ livelihood in every possible manner the private schools remain insensitive and want to maintain their profit made in the education business for years. Some parents were compelled to drop their children for a year because they were getting humiliated by school for not paying fees,” said the letter dated September 9 2020.
The DOE order specified: “The school running on the land allotted by the DDA/Other Land Owning Agencies with the condition to seek approval of Directorate (Education) before any fee increase, shall collect the above mentioned fees on the basis of last fee structure approved by Director Education or as per fee statement filed by them under DEAR 1973 during academic session 2015-16.”
The schools have not kept the written laws and orders in mind before removing the students from online classes, rue the parents and cite the CBSE Affiliation By-Law clause 9.1.3, which says “Society shall ensure that the school is run as a community service and not as a business and that commercialization does not take place in the school in any manner whatsoever.”
The Constitution of India under Fundamental Rights as well as Directive Principles of State Policy, includes all the rights of children that were later listed under the UNCRC 1990. “These rights include education as an important part of a child’s development.”
Model Framework for Fee Regulations of Unaided Private Schools issued by the Education Division of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Section 31 and 32 of the Right to Education Act 2009, says “examine and review the safeguards for the rights provided by or under any Law related to children…”
“In time of need parents are finding that none of the laws and orders have been followed. Their children have been removed from online classes. This is in clear violation of DOE orders and other laws that ensure continuity of education. People are in serious economic trouble and private schools have not been kind to the affected parents and their children,” said Renuka Tyagi from the Delhi Parents Association.
Request to the authorities
The Association in the letter demanded that keeping all the issues in mind the authorities must “issue a fresh order for waiver of complete fees for the periods from April to June as complete lockdown for any type of financial activities and income/ earning of the parents was almost zero during this period.”
The letter also requested “to issue amended fee bills to the parents removing any other type charge except tuition fee for the months July onwards.”
“To reduce the tuition fee as the fee approved in 2015-16” or “reduce the tuition fee by 50%.” Or “as per actual expenses on online classes and services rendered by school during pandemic, whichever is less,” the letter demanded.
Other demands included excluding any other charges from the fees till the school reopens and to issue strict orders to DPS Mathura Road to provide immediate online classes and all other education facilities to all those students whose names have been cutoff.
News 18.com tried to elicit a response from Deeksha Khera, principal of the DPS Mathura Road, but there was no response.