Three schools that operate from at least seven campuses shut down all the institutes indefinitely on Thursday citing “law and order” following days of agitation at the school gates by a section of parents against fees charged by the schools.
The decision by Ashok Hall Girls’ Higher Secondary School, GD Birla Centre for Education, and Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar was allegedly because of a small fraction of parents but led to serious concern among many others about the immediate future of their children.
All three are part of the Ashok Hall Group of Schools.
A notice pasted on the gates of all the three schools on Thursday morning said: “In view of the present law and order situation caused by the agitation in and outside the school, we are forced to close down the school for the safety and protection of the students and the teachers till further notice. Kindly bear with us.”
Parents whose children would appear for their boards from April 25 and 26 (ICSE, ISC and CBSE) said they were worried because some of these schools were centres for board examinations.
School buses outside the Ashok Hall Girls’ Higher Secondary School campus
Parents alleged that there was no prior notice sent to them and they came to know about the school shutting only when they reached campus on Thursday morning.
The gates were closed and the closure notice was pasted on them.
“We tried to go inside to meet the school authorities but we were not allowed to enter,” said the mother of a student of one of the schools.
This newspaper could not contact the authorities of any of the three schools. Several teachers disconnected calls or did not respond to calls and text messages. A spokesperson for the schools who has spoken in the past refused to comment on the issue.
The lack of communication from the schools left the parents even more worried.
“I am worried. What if the board exam in the school gets impacted?” said a mother whose daughter will be appearing for Class X board exams from one of the schools.
A mother whose daughter is in Class X and will appear for her board exams next year asked why her child should suffer for a “minuscule section of parents”.
Over the last few days, there were agitations at the gates of the three schools by parents because some students were not allowed to enter campus and had not been given report cards.
“If parents have a problem, they will have to appeal to the school. School is not a place to flex muscles. During the pandemic, my husband did not get his salary for seven months and I appealed to the school and my request was partly heard,” said the mother of a student in GD Birla Centre for Education.
“We have to pay about Rs 57,000 (including books) for the first quarter and I am making arrangements for it,” said the mother of another child at GD Birla school. The association of parents of one of the three schools said that they were not supporting the agitation.
“We are against any sort of agitation by a fraction of parents, especially at a time physical school has started. We want school to run properly and our children should be able to go to school. We condemn the decision of the school to shut down indefinitely. Why should our children suffer because of only a section of guardians,” said Sanjay Bhattacharyya, the acting president of GD Birla Parents’ Association.
A section of parents alleged that report cards were not given to the students despite the school fees being paid.
“I have cleared the dues as demanded by the school and yet my daughter did not get the report card and she was denied entry,” said a father whose daughter is in Class XI at Mahadevi Birla Shishu Vihar. The father had filed a police complaint after she was denied entry.
The dispute over fees has been raging on several campuses since the early days of the pandemic. Some parents accused the schools of charging students for facilities that were no longer applicable because of the pandemic and online classes.
Heads of several schools not associated with the Ashok Hall Group said many parents were not clearing their dues despite being in a position to do so.
“This has been a persistent problem for two years. It is not that we are not considerate towards parents who need a waiver but others should come forward and pay,” said Amita Prasad, the director of Indus Valley World School.
On Wednesday, Calcutta High Court had ruled that schools cannot deny promotion to any student or withhold report cards for non-payment of fees.
The order said: “It is alleged by a section of parents/ students mostly of GD Birla Centre for Education, Mahadevi Birla Sishu Vihar, Adamas International School and some other schools that very arbitrarily the school authorities are not granting promotion to students, withholding their report cards and not allowing them to join the higher class in the new session on the pretext that school fees have not been paid. The schools are charging a much larger amount than that directed to be charged by our interim orders.”