Big relief for parents: No pvt schools can hike fees without govt's nod, says Dy CM

New Delhi: Private schools in the national Capital will not be allowed to increase fees during the Coronavirus lockdown without government approval and only the tuition fee can be charged till the time schools reopen, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced on Friday.

Also, schools cannot withhold salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff or collect fee quarterly, Sisodia said.

Schools found not following the directive have been warned of action under the Delhi School Education Act and National Disaster Management Act.

"We are receiving complaints from many parents that private schools have increased their fees. These schools have also not notified the Delhi government. Costs like transportation fees are being added and demanded by the schools. And those students who are failing to pay the fees on time are being dropped from online classes. Private schools should not stoop down to this level," Sisodia said addressing a digital press conference.

Sisodia, also the education minister of Delhi, clarified that charges such as transport fee, annual fee or any other miscellaneous head cannot be levied during the lockdown.

"Only tuition fee can be charged from students on monthly basis. No other fee like annual or transportation fee or under any other head should be charged in wake of the pandemic COVID 19. Schools cannot ask for three months' fee at a time.

"And online classes facilities will not be stopped or terminated by private schools for students even if they fail to pay their fees. All students will have access to online learning facilities provided by their individual schools, even if they fail to pay the tuition fee," Sisodia said.

Schools have also been mandated to pay salaries to staff including the contractual employees and seek funds from their parent organisation if they face any crunch.

"All schools are directed to release full salaries of their staff on time including teaching and non-teaching staff. This order applies to all permanent, contractual and out-sourced employees of the schools. If they are short of funds, they can reach out to their parent organisation for funds. Those schools which are not complying with this order will be booked under Delhi School Education Act and National Disaster Management Act," Sisodia said.

The country is under a lockdown since March 25 due to Coronavirus spread. The lockdown has now been extended till May 3. While schools were closed and exams postponed at least two weeks before the lockdown was announced, online classes are being conducted by private schools as well as Delhi government-run schools.

Several parents have been approaching the government with requests for fee waivers during the lockdown period. Sisodia, in an online interaction with parents, had said the government is deliberating on the subject as schools cited concerns about payment of salaries to staff.

However, FICCI ARISE, a collegium of stakeholders who represent different facets of school education said the move will put private schools in jeopardy and government also need to come up with some measures for them.

"We are certainly going through an unprecedented crisis and we appreciate the government's intent to provide relief to parents. However, in light of the facts that there has been practically no fee increase in Delhi for the last five years and schools are being forced to pay seventh pay commission salaries, the schools' reserves have been completely depleted," said Shishir Jaipuria, Co-Chairman, FICCI Arise.

"Besides many schools have deficits in their balance sheets for multiple years. Schools have already been drawing on development fees and annual charges to pay salaries to their teachers. This will put several schools in jeopardy and it may become very difficult to revive these institutions that are already in critical care. While taking such measures the government also needs to come with a slew of measures to save private schools," he added.

As per the Delhi government data, there are 1,030 government-run schools, 215 government-aided schools and 1,352 private schools. The total number of students stands at 44.43 lakh.

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