Following the Delhi high court’s order allowing private schools to charge last academic year’s annual charges and development fee retrospectively, several institutions have started sending messages to parents of students asking them to submit last year arrears along with the fees of the ongoing academic session. This has put several parents in distress as many of them are still reeling under financial crisis brought about by the outbreak of Covid-19.
On May 31, the high court set aside two orders issued last year prohibiting private schools from collecting annual charges and development fees during the Covid-induced lockdown. It held that schools may collect these charges for the last academic year retrospectively, in six monthly instalments starting from June 10, but only after a 15% reduction on total school fees in lieu of facilities not used by students during the lockdown.
The court also allowed schools to charge the whole fee, including tuition fee and other charges, for the 2021-22 academic year. The Delhi government later challenged the single-bench decision but the court refused to stay the order.
In the last week, several private schools, including Apeejay School, Pitampura, Maharaja Agrasen Public School in Ashok Vihar, Veda Vyasa DAV Public School in Vikaspuri, and Kulachi Hansraj Model School, among others, have started sending out messages to parents informing them that they will now have to pay last year’s arrears of annual and development charges along with the complete fees of the ongoing session.
Pankaj Gupta, a father of two studying in Class 11 and KG (kindergarten) respectively, works with an insurance agency. He said his work has been severely affected in the past year. “I have hardly earned anything since March last year. I had exhausted all my savings in paying the tuition fees of my children last year and in sustaining my family,” he said.
“The unlocking has just begun in Delhi. How can we fix our financial situation within days and pay so much to the school? The last year’s arrears for my daughter alone amount to ₹60,000. I have no means to pay that even in six instalments. Why can’t the government come up with a package for schools and relieve parents?” he asked.
Several other parents told HT they are not in a position to pay anything other than tuition fees. Atul Sharma, who works as an interior decorator for offices and commercial places, said he has hardly got any work since last year. His two children study in a private school in Rohini. “I have no idea how I will even manage to pay the fees, forget about arrears. Right now, my focus is only to revive my work so that my children can continue with their education.”
Social activist Farooq Siddiqui, whose two children study in a private school in south Delhi, said, “The Delhi high court’s order has come as a double whammy for parents, specifically for those who have 2-3 children studying in private schools. The pandemic has hit the regular income of middle-class families. How are parents supposed to pay last year’s arrears when they can’t even afford this year’s fee?”
The All India Parents Association (AIPA) and the Delhi Parents Association have sought clarity from the Delhi government on the issue. Ashok Agarwal, president of AIPA, said, “The situation is such that even if parents take their children out of the school for failing to pay the fees, the schools will not issue a transfer certificate (required for admission to another school) till the parents don’t clear the bills.”
Meanwhile, officials from the Delhi government said they will soon challenge the high court order in the Supreme Court. “The appeal will be filed in the apex court within the next few days,” a Delhi government official said.
The social organisation Justice for All will also file an appeal against the Delhi high court order in the apex court. “We have also started sending contempt notices to defaulter schools, which have been overcharging and deliberatly misreading the judgment. Till now, 10 such notices have been issued,” said advocate Khagesh Jha, who is also the president of the outfit.
On behalf of the private schools, SK Bhattacharya, president of the Action Committee Unaided Recognised Private Schools, an umbrella organisation of over 450 private schools in Delhi, assured that schools would show “consideration” to families which are in “genuine” financial crisis. “Parents can approach the school management with documents if they have a genuine crisis.Some form of concession, waiver, or extension in paying the fee will be arranged. We have also urged schools to show compassion and not misinterpret the court order.”