Srinagar: Parents are up in arms against the government for giving in to the pressure of private schools and issuing an order asking them to deposit fees despite the lockdown.
An order issued by the School Education Department has asked students to pay tuition fees monthly.
“Only a tuition fee shall be charged from the students monthly instead of the quarterly basis for the lockdown period. No fee hike shall be made during the academic session 2020-21,” reads the order.
The order noted that annual charges, if any, can be charged monthly on pro-rata basis after the school reopens and a view regarding transport charges shall be taken separately.
“No school shall deny access to online education, material/ classes to poor/deserving students’ unable to pay school fee due to the prevailing situation,” the order said.
Soon after, private schools sent out text messages to parents asking to clear the outstanding fees of their wards.
“Dear parent, kindly clear your school dues by 1st June 2020. You can now pay from your mobile using credit/debit card, net banking, Pay TM, or UPI,” reads a message sent by one of the reputed schools of the valley to parents.
Shock and anger have gripped the parents after the government toed the private schools’ line.
“I cannot afford tuition fees in this situation. Household expenses are very difficult to manage and how can I pay the fee of my children,” said Basharat Ahmad, whose children are studying in one of the private schools in Srinagar.
He said online classes are “just an attempt to grab money” from the students. “It is not bearing any fruit because there is a network issue. My children are not able to understand this one-way discussion,” he said.
Mohammad Shafi, another parent who three kids study in a school in uptown Srinagar, said he wouldn’t a penny.
“Tell me why should I pay? Since August what have the schools done except coming up with tantrums. The reason that teachers need to be paid is also flawed. I am willing to pay only as much as is needed to manage the salaries of the teachers, who we know are exploited for a few thousand rupees bucks while the school belches the major revenue,” Ahmad said.
As per Shafi, the claim that schools are providing online education in times of 2G internet is “laughable.”
“So you are telling me I should pay Rs 1500 a month for Google search and a couple of test papers. Besides, half of the time, either the teacher is disconnected or the students are all haywire on this so-called digital platform,” he added.
Principal Secretary to government, School Education Department, Dr. Asgar Hassan Samoon said most of the private schools are small and the salary of their teachers comes from the fees of students.
“If they don’t charge fees, they won’t be able to pay the salary of their teachers. There are a few big private schools in the valley. If they are demanding extra charges or exploiting students, we can de-recognize them,” he said.
Samoon said his department has raised the issue with Lieutenant Governor to provide relief to children of daily wagers, street vendors, small businessmen, and shopkeepers.
“We have asked Private Schools Association not to charge fees from underprivileged students. But government school teachers, who have admitted their kids in private schools, can afford fees for their children. They are getting handsome salaries,” he said.