Private schools to charge 50% tuition fees for online classes.

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This Petition is being prepared to draw the attention of Hon. State Education Minister, Varsha Gaikwad and Maharashtra State Government, to grievances faced by parents, and to request their intervention in the fees being demanded by private schools of Maharashtra under the pretext of online classes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the disease of COVID-19 as a Pandemic. In light of the same, Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and Disaster Management Act, 2005 has being invoked in the State of Maharashtra. As a direct result of the unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19 global pandemic, parents have lost their sources of income, have had to endure salary cuts and business losses, while some are stranded in towns outside their home cities and State of Maharashtra. According to World Bank forecasts declared on June 8, 2020, the global economy will shrink by 5.2% this year. That would represent the deepest recession since the Second World War. [1] Parents who continue to pay 100% fees  for online classes may suffer financially when recession hits.

On the other hand, schools are securing their financial future by charging 100% fees for online classes. Schools are not bearing any overhead costs on account of electricity, fuel expenses, midday meals and any other variables involved. Yet, they are extracting 100% fees by pushing children and parents towards online classes.

Hence, we the citizens of State of Maharashtra, humbly request the State Education Minister, Varsha Gaikwad and Maharashtra State Government to provide relief to parents by resolving the following grievances:-

Grievance 1] Parents are opposed to private schools charging 100% fees for online classes

Parents understand that private schools are not utilizing their own premises for online sessions. Teachers are working from their own homes using their own internet connections to provide educational services. By charging 100% fees for online classes, private schools are making significant earnings as their overheads are negligible for a locked school. On the contrary, parents would be further burdened financially with arrangement of a standalone laptop/tablet per child along with headphones, scanner, printer and high-speed internet connection consuming up to 2GB data daily for a single student undertaking online classes.

Due to technological limitations, intermittent internet connections, inefficient means of checking individual student academic progress and lack of physical presence of a dynamic classroom teacher, it is quite evident that parents would have to self-contribute towards their children’s daily education. This will significantly burden parents who are working from home as well as commuting to offices. In sum, the effectiveness of online sessions would not be equivalent to classroom sessions. Charging 100% fees for online classes is extremely unfair to parents who are facing a financial crisis of an unprecedented nature for no fault of theirs.

Is it fair for parents who have lost their jobs, have had salary cuts or endured massive business losses, to remove their children from school as they are unable to pay 100% school fees? Is this the right time for private schools to profit from the global pandemic when the world is facing the worst global recession since Second World War?

Solution: Parents would like private schools to only charge 50% of the tuition fee on a monthly basis for online classes. No other unutilized fee heads should be charged for online classes. This is solely to ensure schools pay salaries to their teaching and non-teaching staff as well as undertake routine school maintenance. Schools can commence collection of 100% tuition fees plus other fee heads on a monthly basis only after it begins admitting children inside their premises and only for the months when school provided classroom sessions.

| ACHIEVED VICTORY |

Congratulations to all of you!! Today, we have collectively achieved an important victory!! Based on the WHO Screen Time guidelines that we had promoted through this petition, and which were subsequently forwarded to Hon. Chief Minister & Hon. Education Minister of Maharashtra, the State Government officially announced zero screen time for students from pre-primary till Class 2 and reduced screen time for higher classes.

Grievance 2] Parents are opposed to private schools forcing children younger than 5 years with online classes

Under WHO screen time guidelines, dated 24th April 2019, “Sedentary screen time between 3-4 years should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.” [2] Further, Nimhans director Dr Gangadhar has quoted in Deccan Herald edition dated 20th May 2020, “I am not endorsing online education for nursery and kindergarten children. Online education is not recommendable for children. Reports of the World Health Organization clearly say that kids should not have screen contact for more than an hour in a day. For smaller children, it is not advisable at all.” [3] Further, Article 24 of UN Convention on Rights of Child states that “Children have the right to the best health care…, a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy.” [4] Parents have the right to refuse online classes for children below 5 years of age if they deem it unhealthy.

Private schools, while completely neglecting WHO screen time guidelines, are making undue enrichment by charging 100% fees for providing online classes to children below 5 years, thus damaging their eyes and overall health. Schools are freely providing more than 4 hours of online classes daily for such children in gross violation of WHO guidelines. Such children may suffer irreparable eye damage as well as addiction to digital screens, further burdening the healthcare system of our country in the future. Should we encourage the creation of an entire generation with eye damage, blindness and addiction to digital screens?

Parents who have requested schools for home-schooling due to health concerns and financial losses, have been told by schools to remove the enrollment of their children for one year and seek a fresh admission next year, but with no assurance of readmission. Is it fair for parents who have children under 5 years of age to be forced to take such a decision when they are already facing a financial calamity for no fault of their own?

| ACHIEVED VICTORY |

Solution: In light of WHO screen time guidelines dated 24th April 2019, parents would like private schools to provide an option of home-schooling for students below 5 years enrolled in nursery and kindergarten in academic year 2020-21, with direct progression to next standard at the end of academic year. The responsibility of teaching will completely rest with parents with zero screen time between school and students. Such parents can also utilize the educational TV channels launched by Maharashtra State Government for providing basic education for children under 5 years.     

Conclusion: The above solutions, when implemented, would go a long way in securing the financial future and well-being of all parents, teachers as well as private school management. No one is responsible for the calamity that has befallen humanity. But, as a global community, we can all help each other by sharing the burden now during the pandemic and in the future when the recession strikes.

Stand with us, as we raise our voices for the safety of our children. Sign and share this petition.

For our children, the future of our nation!

References:

[1]https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/06/08/covid-19-to-plunge-global-economy-into-worst-recession-since-world-war-ii

[2] https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/325147/WHO-NMH-PND-2019.4-eng.pdf

[3]https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/online-classes-no-child-s-play-feel-experts-840003.html

[4] https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/convention-text-childrens-version