A group of parents on Wednesday gathered in front of a private school in Kolkata’s Park Street, held posters and raised slogans. The parents said that since the school was not open, they did not want to pay the full school fees for their wards studying in the school. Several private schools in Kolkata, and in other towns and suburbs of the State, have witnessed similar protests over several months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced educational institutions to close down.
The protests on Wednesday came after two developments on Tuesday. A group of parents had approached the Calcutta High Court demanding appropriate discounts on account of reduced costs in the running of the schools over the last four months. The Calcutta HC had on Tuesday directed that the outstanding dues of each student, as on July 31, had to be cleared to the extent of 80% by August 15. The Court also directed that none of the 112 schools involved should discontinue making online courses available to any of their students, or prevent them from participating in online examinations, unconditionally, till August 15.
In the order, Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya said the counsels representing the schools had stated that contractual employees may not have been paid or their services may not have been renewed but regular employees had been paid by the schools.
The order mentions that the State’s Advocate General in his submission had said that not all private, unaided schools have paid the salaries or dues of their employees, including teachers.
In another development, the State’s Education Secretary, in an order earlier this week, had suggested that schools should consider the matter of late payment in a sympathetic manner.
“All schools functioning in the State of West Bengal should not increase any fee including tuition fee for the academic session 2020-2021,” the order by Education Secretary Manish Jain said.
The order stated that no new fee should be introduced by schools and students should not be denied services, including online classes. Mr. Jain also mentioned that schools should not charge transport fees and fees for co-curricular activities.
Despite repeated assurances from the State government that no extra fees should be charged, the protests over fees payment have continued across the State.