With schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents in Telangana are requesting the state government to issue clear guidelines on the conduct of online classes for children.
The Hyderabad School Parents Association (HSPA) conducted a survey, which found that most schools had begun conducting online classes for all grades, including for children in kindergarten.
The survey also found that a majority of parents were against online classes for younger students till Class 5. Many of them also pointed out that the online classes had some adverse effect on the health of their children and was not a very effective way of learning.
"In the name of online classes, few schools are charging online-class-fees in addition to other fees i.e. food-fee, transportation-fee, activity-fee etc, though Government Order (GO) clearly mentions that schools should collect only the tuition-fees that too on a monthly basis," the HSPA said.
The HSPA further added, "To add to the grievances of parents when schools are not running physically, they are forcing parents to buy the uniforms,books,notebooks and other stationery for online classes at skyrocketing prices from the shops kept in school premises adding unnecessary extra economic burden to already struggling parents."
In April, the Telangana government had ordered that all schools in the state must only collect tuition fee on a monthly basis, without any hikes from the previous year.
The Education Department even said that non-compliance of orders would also lead to appropriate action against the school managements.
Despite this, parents allege that schools have been violating the instructions issued in the GO. Parents say that the Telangana government's failure to spell out its stand on the issue of online classes is only adding to its woes.
"Some schools are even trying to exploit parents by withholding the online class links if parents are not able to pay the whole fee amounts. In the absence of any guidelines and inaction from the Education Department and concerned authorities regarding online classes, private schools are resorting to various wrong practices leaving parents in disdain and despair," the HSPA said.
"On behalf of all the parents from across Telangana, members of HSPA want to request your good offices to take stringent action against the violating schools and issue the needed guidelines for the conduct of online classes in the state," the HSPA added.
Recently, a social activist also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Telangana High Court, asking for orders to the state government to issue clear guidelines on online classes.
After hearing the case on Wednesday, a bench comprising Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice B Vijaysen Reddy said that it was the duty of the state government to make a policy decision and observed that the court could not interfere in the matter.
Meanwhile, the Telangana government is yet to take a decision on the issue.
"There have been no guidelines yet on online education from our department's end. The work to formulate the guidelines has also not started yet. However, we might start soon and release orders, " Ramana Kumar, Joint Director, School Education Department told TNM.