Keekli Bureau, 10th May, 2020, Shimla

The social and economic crisis due to the Corona epidemic has taken away the happiness of the people. Citizens are facing huge social and economic difficulties, stated the Student Parent Forum, Shimla Office Bearer Vijender Mehra. He said that a large part of the people of the state, 5 lakh 13 thousand students studying in private schools and about 8 lakh of their parents are facing huge problems like other sections in this crisis. These 13 lakh people, who constitute 15 percent of the total population of the state, are facing heavy fees of private schools and are in a state of crisis for their payment. In this difficult situation, due to increase in fees done by private schools and lack of means of income, it has become unbearable for parents to pay the fees. He said that out of these 8 lakh parents, about 70% of the parents are labourers, planners, outsourced employees, small shopkeepers, taxi operators, businessmen, hotel operators and self-employed, etc., whose income means have stopped due to lock down and curfews.

Therefore stressing again on the demand of fee concession the forum of Shimla has written a nine pointer letter to the Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, “The student guardian forum has raised these issues a dozens of times with the Chief Minister, Director of Education and Joint Director of Education, including you,” stated the letter.

“On the lines of the Uttar Pradesh government, the increase in fees of 8 to 20% made by private schools in Himachal Pradesh this year should be immediately cancelled, they stated in the first point of the letter. Second that on the pattern of Delhi and Haryana Government, only tuition fee should be collected for the quarter from March to May. Of this, a complete ban should be imposed on annual charges, miscellaneous charges, smart classroom charges, computer fees, sports funds, development funds and all other charges. Tuition fees should not be levied from students studying in private schools where there are no online classes or small classes which are not being studied online”, they added.

“In event of any parent losing their employment completely due to corona epidemic, their children should not be taken out of private school and their studies should be continued,” stated Vijender Mehra of the forum.

He said that private schools are charging tuition fees as well as a hefty annual charge fee as part of tuition fees whereas the Himachal Pradesh High Court in its judgment in 2016, has stopped charging annual charges. Thereafter, this annual charge is recorded in the fees booklet of private schools under different heads than the tuition fees. Hence, complete ban should be imposed on the recovery of annual charge under the guise of tuition fees, he demanded. Adding that, three notifications were issued by the Director of Higher Education, Himachal Pradesh on 18 March, 8 April and 4 May 2019, to withdraw the huge fee hike made by private schools in the year 2019 and either to return it to parents or to be included. Which have not been implemented till date,” added Mehra.

Adding, ”Notifications issued by Higher Education Director Himachal Pradesh on 5 December 2019, 18 January 2020 and 12 March 2020 in respect of fees in private schools should be implemented in letter and spirit.”

He said that from March to May 2020, the Directorate of Education of the State Government has issued a number of notifications and orders regarding the collection of fees in private schools in the middle of Corona, of which the order dated 25 April 2020 is the latest. Despite these notifications and orders, private schools did not care and many private schools have been sending their parents frequent messages to collect fees and harass them, he informed. “These private schools, which are in violation of the orders of the state government, are being cheered for arbitrary and looting due to no action, even for repeatedly violating the orders. Therefore, action should be taken against these private schools in violation of government orders as per Epidemic Act and Disaster Management Act,” demanded the forum.

They stated that the entire fees from March to May 2020 should be waived because no classes are being held in private schools in the period. Despite the orders of the state government, the much recovered fees of the year 2019 have not been returned to the parents through private schools. It should be included as fee from March to May 2020 and the entire fee for this period should be waived, they concluded.

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