Parents of students studying in private-unaided schools will stage a sit-in protest on January 30 outside the office of the state school education minister Varsha Gaikwad over the issue of fee hike. Parents said schools have increased fees despite financial constraints due to the pandemic while, private unaided schools have repeatedly said they need funds to run online classes and pay salaries of teachers.
Members of the Indiawide Parents’ Association, a pan-India body of parents, have planned to stage an offline protest to draw the attention of the state school education ministry over the fee hike issue. A member of the association said, “We have staged multiple online protests and written letters to the state school education minister on several occasions during the lockdown to take action against exorbitant fee hikes initiated by private unaided schools. But there has been no relief provided by the state school education department so now, we want to stage an offline protest to convey the gravity of the situation.”
On the other hand, schools said they need fees to pay salaries of teachers, maintain school infrastructure and run regular online classes. Bharat Malik, vice president of the Federation of Schools Association of Maharashtra (FSAM), said, “Those parents who genuinely have a financial crisis are approaching the school management and the school authorities are trying to find solutions for payment of fees. But there are many parents who have not paid 50 to 60 per cent basic academic fees.”
Arundhati Chavan, president of Parent Teacher Association (PTA) United Forum, said, “Parents should consider whether it is safe to stage an offline protest amidst the Covid-19 pandemic situation.”
The Maharashtra government had released a government resolution (GR) on May 8, 2020 stating schools should stay all fee hikes for the current academic year 2020-21 and allow parents to pay fees in instalments. The GR was then stayed by the Bombay High Court (HC) on June 26, 2020 after several organisations of private school owners filed a petition against it. Since then, the stay directed by the court is in effect while the case is going on in the Bombay HC.