Despite clear instructions from the department of public instruction to suspend the admission process until further orders, a number of private schools in the city are allegedly pressuring parents to pay the tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year.
Ironically, some of these educational institutions are run by ministers and elected representatives.
The matter now has reached Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar after several parents complained to him. DH has seen copies of some of these complaints.
One of the complaints reads: "Our child is studying in a school located in Banashankari and affiliated to the CBSE. While we have seen media reports that schools should not collect the fees for the 2020-21 academic year in the present circumstances, we have been getting messages/e-mails from the school asking us to pay the fees before April 15. Kindly look into the issue."
Earlier this month, the department instructed all schools — including those affiliated to the CBSE, the ICSE and the state board — to suspend the admission process for the next academic year until further orders in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A parent said the current lockdown had hit his business hard and it would be difficult for him to pay the tuition fees by the given deadline. "Despite requests, the school is sending us repeated messages," the parent said. "This is pure harassment."
Block education officers (BEOs) have also received similar complaints from parents. A BEO from Bengaluru South said the issue was so serious that parents were calling on his mobile phone even though his office remained shut. "They are seeking clarity about the fee payment. Some of them have expressed their inability to pay the fees given the lockdown. We have told them not to worry as the government has issued clear directions to the schools (about suspending the admission process)."
'Loophole in the directive'
A senior official in the department suggested that schools appeared to be taking advantage of a loophole in the government directive. The circular talked about suspending fresh admissions while these complaints are mostly about existing students, the official explained, adding that a separate circular would be issued to settle the matter.
Suresh Kumar, the minister, said that while the government had issued general instructions on suspending the admission process, the admission of students to higher classes should be viewed along similar lines.
"I will instruct the officials to look into the matter and ensure that no parent is harassed," he said. "Schools must act responsibly during this time of crisis. Hope they understand the government's concerns."