Its night around 2.30 AM. Not able to sleep. Trying to sleep from 11 pm or so but just cannot. Lots of thoughts are pouring in. The day had lots of ups and downs. Very unique day i.e. 05 August 2020.
Morning was going as usual. India was celebrating Ram Janambhoomi Poojan, a historic event. I also had thoughts of having a look but lots of work. It was around 12 pm that my daughter came running to me saying “Papa, ye kaam nahi kar rahaa” (it’s not working) while pointing to her mobile on which online class was going on. I was busy with my meeting (all are virtual nowadays from home) so I told her by sign language to wait for some time. She was not happy with me but anyway, left me. Mother was even more engrossed in her meeting. Elder brother was in his online class so she had no option but to wait. I got free after 10 min and called her. I found that her online class (which happens on MS Teams) was asking for a password which was quite unusual. Anyway, I searched for the login/password details provided by school earlier and tried my best to login. It did not let us in the class. I tried again and then noticed that we were blocked by VIBGYOR Mgmt.
I saved the screenshot and shared with few other parents on VIBGYOR Parents group on Telegram and found that already few parents had shared same issue. Most of these parents (Including self) had been writing emails to School to provide options to pay un-hiked fee as per Govt directives. Govt directive is that during this pandemic, private schools can only take un-hiked fee from parents which these schools have been flouting with attitude. I learnt that there was also a notice served on the school to collect only tuition fee of last academic year.
All are impacted due to Pandemic. Some of us are impacted more. I run a cab business, RideAlly and its just 5% of Feb-2020. Losses are mounting but it does not mean that I cannot afford my dearest daughter’s school fee. I want best for her that’s why have been sending her to one of the high payment school (cannot term as best school but yah pricey school). More than school, it’s a class thing that kids/parents of certain income group, living standards can only afford such schools.
I studied in Govt schools and could get to IIT-Kharagpur hence I firmly believe that it is more of a grit and family support which brings your best though some teachers do create an impact. It is not the infrastructure for which we pay heavily and we are not using that with online classes. I do find that teachers and staff of VIBGYOR very good. Full marks to them for that. In fact, overall standards of teachers are good at Bengaluru.
Now, why did I not pay fee for dearest daughter and brought her such misery? Bad parenting? In fact, I told my daughter few times in past that “beta (its daughter but beta is gender neutral here), maine fee nahi bhari hai kyonki tumhare school se meri baat chal rahi hai” (I have not paid your fee due to unfair demands from school mgmt and we are under discussion). She said papa, please pay but for papa, it’s a matter of principle rather money.
Due to Covid, school did not start on time for her else schools are so intelligent that they take full year fee (in advance) before even kids go to next class. Many come under this trap and even, I did pay for elder son who is in 10th class for whom school started in March itself. For daughter, due to lockdown etc, school did not start until June 2020 but the school mgmt sent out a circular as early as Feb 5th 2020 requesting payment of 45% of total fee and in some branches By Dec 31st or Jan first week. Now, strange thing is that school had hiked the fee in Feb itself by almost 10% without giving any justification.
We also pay as we think that we will work little more (or spend less) but let’s have peace of mind. Every year, many parents try to negotiate with school mgmt but without any success. This time, pandemic had hit and each and every family is hit (whether rich or ultra-rich or just middle class like me). We were expecting Mr. Rustom Kerawala to rise to the occasion and be modest and reasonable. He would have won the hearts of 1000s of parents at Vibgyor if he were to simply consider pandemic situation when parents who supported him all these years needed him the most and their expectation from Vibgyor was to just comply with State laws and fee rules than challenge them at every instance at courts exercising the muscle/legal power. It seems that we are slaves and bound to pay as per their whims and fancies. Afterall, they hold the life of our dearest kids on ransom.
Lots of parents wrote to them. Some parents created Telegram group and in less than a week, 100s of parents joined. I also got to know. Many had similar concerns and tried to reason with school to not to hike atleast this year (especially when you have no justification). Just because we were paying the ransom amount (using the term due to no justification yet), does not mean that we keep paying it year after year.
School started sending threatening emails like pls pay by this day else we will ensure that kids suffer. The thought came that where is preference on education, all they are worried about is money. Usually some business houses behave like that. It’s about revenue and profits and every means fair/unfair, ethical/unethical, moral/immoral to justify the same. Im not saying that business houses are bad but then we pay them for service quality and hold them accountable.
School started online classes for my daughter (in 3rd grade) somewhere in June because fee has to be collected. No preparations from teachers, not bothering whether parents have extra laptop or not, I can go on and on for deficiency of service in imparting education. It’s a joke going on actually and pressure is building that pay else..
Now, one starts thinking that should I pay 1.6 Lakhs or more for 2 hrs or few hours of online class. It’s not even full time school. Does it make sense? When I agreed for such high fee then I also agreed with school for certain education standard, environment standards etc etc and how can a school ask money without giving me anything like that. If they do not care for my kid’s education than why should I pay for service which I’m not getting. Is it not simple math? That we pay for service. If no service, then no payment.
Meanwhile, some parents tried to write to authorities. Education minister announced that schools cannot threaten to expel kids and can take only tuition fee etc but who cares for education minister? I cared and believed in him but school management is above all of us. Few authorities did respond but nothing much happened. I give credit to school management that they managed it very well. How do they do it? It’s a mystery to mortals like us but they somehow manage it.
I being an innocent person still had hope on vibgyor management to be atleast reasonable but as I said how dare one can have such expectations? I wrote to them on 4-July that we parent are looking for hike to be rolled back and that’s all. I was ready to pay for even deficiencies in service thinking about kids to pay fee (as per last year). Education/Enviroment etc is not even close to last year. In fact, got a response that management is looking into it. Felt good that afterall, my kids are in a responsible / reasonable school but I heard nothing from school management for next 2 weeks.
On 20-Jul, I wrote back and I offered them to pay tuition fee (as per government circular 32544 dated 28-Apr-2020 and specific notice C5/Shulka Vasuli/01/2020 21 dated 19-May-2020) and asked them how to pay because their portal did not have such options. They again obliged and said that there is a court case already going on and management will get back to us.
Meanwhile we parents got fed up with school tactics, thought of filing court case. I admire few parents (name is being withheld) who took lead and coordinated with many of us and finally filed petition in high court in mid-July. Court gave 1st date of hearing as 23-Jul but later, mentioned that it should be heard along with other similar petitions on 27-Jul which again got postponed to further dates.
Now, somewhere end of July, school posted a general memo that whoever did not pay any amount, will be de-enrolled from 1-Aug onwards. Now, I was already promised that management would come back to us (in writing) so I did not pay much heed to it. They had sent similar reminders before as well. Also, I was willing to pay more than value of services offered. I wrote to them again on 31-Jul and asked for methods to pay (Fee as per last year) because their portal still was not working as per Govt’s directives. I must credit where due that I got a response again that your email has been fwded to management for their perusal. I said, OK, let’s wait again.
It seems, nobody is actually telling management (Principal is in loop already) that some parents have written such emails and we have promised to come back or may be, management do not give a hoot about it. Chances of second option is higher because how can a subordinate not tell their bosses. As usual, Nothing came and on 5th August, my daughter was de-enrolled in middle of the class. No notice was sent to me that such action is being planned when Im directly talking to them. I had to console my daughter and tell her that consider it as vacation for some days.
Now, what next? Inevitable has happened. So, around 1 pm or so, I collected my thoughts, cancelled my other work, wrote to school again (CCing to DDPI, Bengaluru South, not hoping for him to act but just for my fake satisfaction) that how can they do that? If there is court case going on then they should only take fee as per Govt directive and if we loose/win then accordingly we would pay more. How can I trust such school with my hard earned money? I’m not expecting any response and it may come in a day or two but do not have much hope left.
We parent discussed in telegram groups (forgot to mention that by now there are 2500+ are in it) and thought of meeting online 7 pm. About 15 joined and we have decided some course of action. Let’s see how it goes. Often numbers do not matter when it is a fight against odds and even few stand for it. Although, I have learnt that 100s have filed complaints at Karnataka Helpline Numbers.
Only worry is the daughter would suffer but hopefully, she would forgive me one day that I’m not the bad parent here.
Further Actions/Updates as on –
My special thanks to some parents for sharing review comments and providing information.
Communication with VIBGYOR school (Post 5-Aug): School has responded on expected lines at 06 Aug, 12.16 PM. I had again written subsequently on 12-Aug and on 17-Aug where I even shared evidence of parents paying only tuition fee and classes were not barred or continued after minor glitches. It seems that school is even discriminating among kids. As on 24-August, classes have not started for my daughter. Struggle continues.
Actions from some parents from Bengaluru (Post 5-Aug): Some of us have been continuously in actions and we have met authorities, honorable MLA of Bommanahalli and honorable Education Minister, Karnataka and they have assured us of some actions. Detailed updates on various actions and minutes of meetings are shared at http://vicharpravah.com/parents-attempts-to-get-justice-on-school-fee/ and this page will be updated regularly.
We have also formed larger group of parents across schools to resolve bigger cause. Pls join the telegram of aggrieved parents at Bengaluru at https://t.me/joinchat/AiFHkBcrKpyDUJKNwGlBtg . Do join the cause if you believe in it.