The Karnataka government has launched a new helpline to help parents and staff of private educational institutions to lodge complaints of harassment by school managements.
While schools are normally allowed to have an annual fee hike of up to 10%, on April 25, the Karnataka government had issued an advisory to schools not to hike the fees keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation. However, some schools which had already issued hikes have not rolled them back. Parents have alleged that they are now being asked to pay the fees in full, and are being sent reminders about the deadline within which they needed to pay the hiked fee. This despite the fact that there is no clarity on whether schools will be allowed to open at all. Some staff members of various private schools have also said that management was laying off some of their employees.
The Karnataka Education Commissioner Jagadeesh confirmed that the department will be launching the helpline from May 10. â€œParents can use (the helpline) to point out harassment and fee hikes by schools during (the) lockdown," the Education Commissioner said.
He added, â€œAt this point, we are not thinking of any penalties. We will convince the institutions to be considerate, to take fees like the previous year. If we impose fine or penalty, the matter may go to court, which is not helpful for the parents. If at all an institution does not fall in line, then we have the option of taking action," he said.
The helpline numbers launched are 080-23320311 (landline) and +91 6364728784 (mobile). Apart from the helpline numbers, there will also be an email ID for parents to lodge their complaints: firstname.lastname@example.org. The helplines will be working from 9.30 am to 6 pm on working days.
Parents in Karnataka had earlier reported that schools are charging increased fees even though they have reduced the normal pay for their various staff members, including principals, drivers, and teachers of the schools, and amid reports that many employees are also being laid off.
With inputs from Geetika Mantri