Mumbai: Schools cannot debar students from classes, exams over non-payment of fees: Varsha Gaikwad

No student will be deprived of education under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, said Varsha Gaikwad, state school education minister on Monday.

She was speaking to the parents of students studying in private-unaided schools, representatives of Forum for Fairness in Education (FFE), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) and members of other parents associations who met the minister to discuss issue of reduction of school fees due to financial crisis amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parents have been protesting since the last few months demanding reduction of school fees on account of financial constraints and economic loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, on February 17, around 300 parents of the students studying in private unaided schools of Maharashtra staged a protest at Azad Maidan over fees charged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the minister assured the parents stating, "Parents can apply for reduction in school fees individually until the Bombay High Court (HC) announces a final verdict regarding fee reduction. But at the same time, students cannot be barred by schools from attending online classes or appearimg for online exams."

During lockdown, some schools were sued by parents for unjust fees during offline school closures, students who did not pay fees were expelled from WhatsApp class groups for online education or were not allowed to appear for online exams. Also, fines were levied on students who paid late fees. Gaikwad said, "Appropriate action will be taken against schools which have such complaints."

The state government will set up a special fee regulation committee for private schools. Gaikwad said, "Fee Regulation Committee at the state level and divisional Fee Regulation Committee will be set up. Parents can send complaints to these committees regarding increase in fees."

Further, Gaikwad said, "The school education department will take proper care that no student is deprived of education under the Right to Education (RTE) Act. The committee will take into consideration suggestions from parents, administrators and charitable organisations and prepare a comprehensive report and submit it to the state government."

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