Uttarakhand govt issues order on fee private schools can charge for online classes during epidemic

Over a month after the Uttarakhand High Court ruled that private schools cannot take fee from those students who can’t access online classes, the state government on Monday evening issued an order on fee private schools can charge for online classes during the epidemic.

R Meenakshi Sundaram, secretary school education department issued an order on Monday evening on fee that can be charged by private schools, “after evaluating all the parties- parents and school owners…”

The order states that only those private schools which have been imparting education through online classes or other communication modes during the lockdown period will be allowed to charge only the tuition fee. The schools cannot charge any other fee from parents. The fresh order applies to all day-run and day-boarding private schools.

“However, if a school is teaching extra subjects through online mode of teaching, then fee for such courses based on a previously set fee, can be charged above the tuition fee,” the order says.

The order further states that “If certain parents despite taking the benefit of online education are not able to pay the fee then they shall write to the school principal or the school’s managing committee, explaining why they are unable to pay the fee and seek extension of time for paying the fee. In such a situation, the school management will allow the parent to pay the fee in the extended time period, but in any condition whatsoever, the student will not be removed from the school.”

As the lockdown due to Covid-19 didn’t have any unfavourable effect on the income of officials working for the government or semi-government institutions, such parents will have to pay tuition fee to schools where their children have taken the benefit of online or any other mode of education.

The order also mentions that for the academic year 2020-21, private schools shall not increase fee for anything in any situation whatsoever.

On May 12, the Uttarakhand high court had directed the state government to appoint the district education officers and block development officers in each district as the nodal officers to whom complaints can be addressed by parents who are being coerced to pay tuition fees by private schools.

Ajay Veer Pundir, counsel of the petitioner had then said the PIL was filed by PIL Dehradun based Japinder Singh, in which he had raised the issue that during the lockdown period many schools were charging a hefty fee from the parents regarding online classes. He said many families in the hilly areas even don’t have computers, smartphones, and proper internet connectivity.

The High Court had ruled that on receipt of any such complaints, the concerned nodal officers “shall take prompt action against the erring educational institutions who are coercing parents, to pay the tuition fees.”

The court pointed out that “Since the government order dated May 2, 2020, enables only those institutions which run online classes to collect tuition fees, it is only those students, who are able to access the online course being offered by the private educational institutions, who would be required to pay the tuition fee, if they choose to do so”.

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