Within a day of the start of the 'online' academic year, parents and schools are at loggerheads on payment of regular fees for the new mode of digital education adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, Varsha Gaikwad, state school education minister, said fee related issues should be raised by respective Executive Parent-Teacher Association (EPTA) with their school management. Also, no schools in Maharashtra will be allowed to hike fees this year due to the pandemic crisis.
According to the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the state government, schools began their academic year from Class 3 to 10 and 12 on June 15 through online lectures. With this beginning, schools have asked parents to pay fees in order to avail services of e-learning, online tutorials and gain access to digital study material, books, worksheets and notes.
But parents have raised issues of high-end fees to be paid with no access to on-ground facilities such as playgrounds, libraries, labs, electricity and school canteen. Tamanna Vora, a parent said, "The school has changed its teaching method by shifting to online education but there has been no change in the fee structure. Why should I pay sports, library and canteen charges when my child is sitting at home and studying online?" While, Umang Tiwari, another parent, said, "My daughter is not availing any infrastructure facility. In fact, we are paying for internet charges used for online classes on our own. Schools should reduce fees."
On the other hand, schools claimed they are charging fees to pay teachers' salaries and provide online services. Rajendra Singh, working president of Independent English Schools Association (IESA) which has 4,340 member schools in Maharashtra, said, "We need to support schools, pay salaries of teachers, staff and maintain infrastructure. Also, even if schools are shut temporarily, we need to pay school building rent, property tax, maintenance charges, salaries of non-teaching staff such as librarians and lab technicians."
Singh added, "Parents need to understand that when the lockdown is lifted, they will send their children to school so we need to maintain classrooms, libraries, playgrounds, infrastructure and support staff. We understand some working parents are genuinely facing financial crisis due to pay cuts and we are ready to defer payment of fees on case by case basis. But if we reduce fees, how are we going to support our schools?"
In response to this tussle between parents and schools, Varsha Gaikwad, state school education minister, said, "If parents face any fee related issues then they should raise it via EPTA before respective school managements. Schools can charge fees because they are providing online education. But schools are not allowed to hike fees this year due to the pandemic crisis."
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