Several schools in the city said they have 50 to over 200 parents in each of their institutions who are yet to clear fees till March this year.
While a section of parents is still recovering from the financial losses suffered over the last two years because of the pandemic, there are some who are taking advantage of the situation because the schools have been barred from taking any coercive action, officials of several schools said.
Calcutta High Court had in February ordered guardians to pay full fees from March and 80 per cent of the fees for the period between April 2020 and February 2022 by March 25.
At South Point, officials of the school said, 78 students are yet to clear their fees. The counts are 200 at The Newtown School; 400 at Birla High School, Sushila Birla Girls’ School and Birla High School Mukundapur together; around 100 at Indus Valley World School and around 300 at Mahadevi Birla World Academy (MBWA), officials of the schools said.
An additional 53 parents have not paid even once in the last two years at MBWA.
At other schools, too, there are parents who have not paid anything for an entire year.
Schools have been sending reminders to parents to clear the fees because being private unaided institutions, they depend on fees to pay salaries to their teachers and other staff, they said.
“There is no urgency for parents to pay the fees. Before the pandemic, a late fine would be charged if the fees were not paid before the deadline. Now, even if parents pay late, the school cannot take any action,” said Sunil Agarwal, founder-director of The Newtown School.
One city school said it's outstanding fees that had accrued over the last two years were Rs 3 crore, while the amount at another was Rs 1.52 crore.
“Earlier, the number of defaulters would be in single digit. But during the pandemic, there were those who genuinely could not pay and those who chose not to,” said Amita Prasad, director of Indus Valley World School.
“Simultaneously, there are parents who are going through immense hardship and yet they have paid 80 per cent of the fees, as directed by the high court.”
Some schools have written off the outstanding amount at the end of a session to close their accounts.
A school principal said they gave heavier discounts than what the court said in many cases.
In one school, the parents of a Class VII student wrote to the authorities saying they could not pay the fees because their business had suffered huge losses.
But a teacher of the school who had been to Dubai a few months back saw the family celebrating a birthday there.
“During the last two years we have charged no late fees and we have extended deadlines. Yet there are parents who have not paid,” said Brig. V.N. Chaturvedi (retd), secretary general of Vidya Mandir Society that runs the Birla schools.
The high court has said schools could not bar any student from attending classes or withhold report cards for non-payment of fees. “We have neither withheld report cards of defaulting students nor denied them entry into classes in the new session. Subject to further court orders, parents will have to abide by the school’s rules that will be applicable in the new session,” said Krishna Damani, trustee, South Point.
Fee hike hearing on Wednesday
Guardians of students at several private schools moved the high court division bench headed by Justice I.P. Mukerji as many schools were not allowing students to attend classes.
Justice Mukerji said he would hear the plea on Wednesday. Last week, the high court had ordered that schools that had allegations of fee hike against them during the pandemic could not deny promotion to any student or withhold report cards for non-payment of fees.
Our legal reporter