Mumbai and Thane schools to block online classes

Mumbai and Thane private unaided schools to block online classes

December 16, 2020
– Dipta Joshi

Over 100 schools in Mumbai, Thane and neighbouring Dombivali and Kalyan areas will block online classes for all students tomorrow (December 17) in support of the ‘No fees, no school’ campaign called by private unaided schools facing unprecedented financial crisis due to non-payment of fees by parents. The schools are affiliated to the Private Unaided School Management Association (PUSMA) – a member of the umbrella organisation, The Federation of Schools Association of Maharashtra (FSAM) that has 5800 Maharashtra schools across the state as its members.

Earlier under FSAM’s directions, 1483 schools in Pune’s Primpri, Chinchwad areas have already blocked online classes enmasse for three days (December 15-17). The federation has pointed out that more than 50 percent of parents despite being financially capable, have desisted from paying fees since last six to seven months with only 30 percent parents paying the due fees.  

Post the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, schools that were forced to shut down in mid-March switched to running online classes to avoid interruption of their academic classes. However, in the absence of full-fledged school several parent associations across the state refused to pay the schools dues other than the tuition fees. Considering the economic fallout of the lockdown – job losses and businesses being shut down, the state government too issued government resolutions (GR) (May 8) in favour of parents warning private school managements of stern action if they hiked fees or compelled parents to pay the due fees. It further asked schools to allow parents to pay the fees in installments. On June 26, the Bombay high court stayed the government’s GR.

However, unaided schools have time and again reiterated their inability to run schools in the absence of fees which are the only source of revenue for most. The federation has warned if the situation does not improve or become favourable towards education, schools might have to close down online education throughout Maharashtra due to insufficient funds.  

“Schools are willing, but are not capable of managing operations in the current scenario. Managements of private unaided schools have supported parents until now by not hiking school fees this year, waiving off fees for unused facilities and providing parents with an installment option to pay up. However, only 30 percent of parents have been paying while as many as 50 percent parents have blocked us refusing to take our calls even as their children continue to take the benefit of online classes. We are against this irresponsible attitude of using the pandemic as an excuse to not pay valid fees to schools. Our point is very simple, schools run on fees and without fees, there can be no schools. To show our protest to the state education departments’ apathy and parents’ attitude towards education we are forced to withhold online education,” says Rajendra Singh, president, FSAM.

In a bid to reduce expenditure, many private unaided school managements have had to impose as much as 40 percent salary cuts in teacher salaries since the lockdown. 

“Many schools have yet to receive almost 20-30 percent of fees for the academic year 2019-20 and have got only 30-50 percent for the current 2020-21 academic year. Despite the schools remaining closed, we still have huge maintenance costs. We only save on electricity and water charges which is a paltry seven percent of our total expenditure. It is unfair to that schools alone should shoulder the burden of educating our children,” says Bharat Malik, vice-president, FSAM.

On November 28, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court granted relief to unaided schools by restraining the state education department from taking coercive action against unaided schools regarding recovery of fees. Parents associations have since written to the chief minister’s office requesting immediate intervention and audit of the finances of schools claiming a lack of funds. 

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