As anxious customers cancel their bookings till January 2021 amid the coronavirus outbreak, Sheetal* (name changed) who is employed at a travel agency, received news she had been dreading. “They asked me to resign as they won’t be able to pay my salary,” she tells The Quint reluctantly, over the telephone.
However, it isn’t unemployment alone why this resident of Delhi’s Pitampura is restless.
Adding to her trouble is a message from her son’s upscale private school. Even as the school is shut and conducts online classes for “a mere 20 minutes”, she says, it has asked for Rs 48,000 to be paid, inclusive of tuition and annual fees.
Annual fee includes charges over and above tuition fees which is paid quarterly.
Calls for schools to charge only tuition fees have grown only louder in Delhi after the governments of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana governments asked private schools to not force parents to pay fees.
As many lose their sources of livelihood amid the nationwide lockdown, Sheetal isn’t the only parent demanding charges other than tuition fees be waived.
After the 21-day lockdown, most Delhi students would not have attended school for over a month. This has contributed to parents’ disinclination to pay miscellaneous fees.
“Students haven’t gone to school from 5 March and the lockdown is till 14 April. Schools are not fully operational and aren’t providing a lot of services. So, why should they charge over and above tuition fees?”Sheetal
And if schools do agree to charge only tuition fees, they must make clear other expenses, which aren’t charged, are waived and not postponed, Sheetal says.
“In July, schools should not come and ask us to pay the fees they may have excluded before,” Sheetal explains.
Delhi schools have not agreed to waive annual fee thus far.
Although her family can sustain on their savings for the following three months, she is worried she won’t find a joy soon and run out of savings.
“Right now, we are using savings to survive the lockdown period. But we had to use it before when I lost my job with Jet Airways and was unemployed for three months. I might have to pay my son’s fees out of the remaining savings. But, where will I go after that?” she asks.
A prominent North Delhi school’s principal tells The Quint that waiving fees isn’t an option as it would endanger teachers’ salaries.
On cash reserves, she says, “Fees hasn’t increased and EWS students keep rising. So, costs are high and school doesn’t have much money.”
When asked if the Delhi government passes an order to not collect fees, she says, “I cannot comment on that. School may be shut, but we are conducting online classes,” she says.
Shops Shut, Coffers Dry
Ever before the nationwide lockdown was imposed, 45-year-old Rajinder* had to close his optical shop in Delhi’s Uttam Nagar. He has since not earned even a single penny and is heavily dependent on monthly earnings from the 11-month-old shop in which he invested all his savings.
To make matters worse, the school his daughter and son attend have demanded the miscellaneous fees right now too.
“My daughter is in class 5 and my son in class 8. For each, the school is asking me to pay Rs 22,300 right now, including tuition fees. My shop is shut and I am not earning anything. How will I pay this amount?”Rajinder
Out of the total Rs 22,300 Rajinder has to pay per child, tuition fees accounts for Rs 10,000. The remaining Rs 12,300 is miscellaneous fees.
With uncertainty over whether the lockdown will be extended, Rajinder says he will have to break into his fixed deposits to pay for his kids’ education and to sustain his family of five.
Allow Moratorium on Fees: Delhi Parents Association
Delhi Parents Association is hopeful of an intervention from the Delhi government.
Manoj Sharma, a member of the association, tells The Quint that the government should ask schools with cash reserves to postpone the collection of fees so that teachers’ salaries are taken care of as well.
“Schools with cash reserves must allow a moratorium on fee submission. Those who don’t, must be allowed to charge tuition fees only. These fees can be collected later in the form of EMIs.”Manoj Sharma
DPA has already written a letter to the Delhi government asking for a “moratorium on collection of fees can be declared for at least one quarter or so as an austerity measure in such unprecedented situation of lockdown.”