Photo used for indicative purpose only. Source: Internet

Around 205 parents have declined the demand for second installment of fees by the 173 year old ‘The Lawrence School Sanawar’. The school had demanded second installment of fees, giving 11% discount on the total charges. Disagreeing with school management about justification of fee these parents in a letter sent to the school headmaster have refused to pay fee till the state Government submits its reply in the High court in this matter on October 5 this year.

“The recent events surrounding the issue of fee have come as a let down to the entire parent community,” stated these parents in the letter. Adding,” as a consequence, we would like to appeal to your finer sense of fair play and justice and arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.”

The certificate issued by school says Rs 69, 960 as tuition fee,” informed Deepak a parent. Currently the High court has allowed the school to charge tuition fee only, but instead they are demanding entire fee, he added.

Private schools henceforth are allowed to charge monthly tuition fees and are authorized to enforce collection of the same. The past tuition fees due towards the private schools are also permitted to be realized by them without charging any fine/late fees after giving two months notice,” had stated the court.

Background of the matter

Deepak Gupta resident of Shimla moved a writ petition in the court on July 7 claiming that arbitrarily the school is demanding fee tune to 89 percent of the total fee which is not in conformity of the state Government notification. The petitioner said that respondent State higher education vide a notification passed on May 27 directed all private schools of state that they cannot not charge any fee except tuition fee. Also the order had stated that tuition fee could not be collected on the quarterly basis. Moreover Schools also had to conduct the online and virtual classes.

The petition alleged that his son is in the 8th standard of this boarding school. Adding, that sending the boy in the school was a big decision taken by the parents for the betterment of the child’s future. The petitioner said that respondent school had demanded a total fee amounting Rs 6, 36,200 in month of January 2020. It was payable in two installments of Rs 4, 01,700 and which included Rs 50,000 as personal expenses by the school which was paid by the petitioner before Feb 15, 2020. The second installment amounting to Rs 2, 34,500 was payable to the school on or before July 15 2020. The children joined the schools from Feb 15 and remained in the school for 28 days. Thereafter were taken home on March 17, 2020 following spread of Covid-19 Pandemic and lock-down subsequently.Therefore charging such an amount of fee is unjustified and should be re-looked as per State government directive, had he demanded.


 School’s Contention in court

Notification dated 27.05.2020 does not make any distinction between private schools whether residential or nonresidential vis-a-vis its applicability. Respondent school on its own has not challenged the notification or its applicability to it. However, in response to the prayer made in the petition for directing the school only to charge tuition fee without any component of boarding/lodging charges, it has been submitted by learned Senior Counsels on behalf of the school that Respondent is a complete residential school. ‘Tuition fee’ in respect of respondent residential school will apply to the entire fee that is relatable to the education of a child. In a complete residential school there is no concept of separate ‘tuition fee’ as child’s education and overall development would not remain confined to class rooms but would travel beyond. The fee of a residential school is thus all encompassing and cannot be compartmentalized,” had stated the heritage school in court.

Adding that, “Respondent residential school is a small township having 139 acres of land with large number of old buildings, large number of roads, pathways which all require all forms of maintenance. The facilities so created are permanent. Thirdly they had added,” It is further the case of the respondent that the fee charged is all inclusive. Salary, wages and benefits for complete education of a student is one component of the whole, which works out at about 80% of annual fee. Out of `5, 86,200/- fee for civilian category, the component spent on child’s education alone comes out to 4, 68,960/-,” had contended the private school in the court.

Parents differ

They state that the total amount collected by the school from fee on a yearly basis is Rs 38.80 crores. Whereas the total salaries (Including those for hostels) is about Rs 13.50 crores. “As per our best calculations, the staff salaries ( HM, Dy HM, Burser, teaching, non teaching, administration, finance, catering team ,doctors and nurses, security, class 4 employees, lab assistants, sports coaches, electricians, matrons, housemasters, counselors etc ) work out to Rs 13.50 crores,” they stated in letter. Adding, that “the revenue on account of fees is Rs 38.80 crores. This amount includes fees of 676 students and also one time admission fee from approximately 115 new admissions.  The percentage of the staff salary constitutes about 34 percent of the revenue (from fees), contend these parents.

Adding, “That the school has received more than 65 percent of the annual fee on account of 1st installment and one time admission fee of new admissions. Our best calculations show that Rs 23.83 crores has been received by the school till Feb 2020 on account of the Ist installment fee, evaluate the parents. Stating that,” coupled with the 2nd installment which has been paid by some parents, one can easily conclude that the school is in a good financial condition and is capable of meeting all its expenses,” they stress.

Brushing aside the 80% salary component these parents mocked,” Which organization including nonprofit gives 80 percent of the revenue to their employees?  The answer is none.  Referring to revenue earned versus pay roll percentages they parents quoted examples. Retail  pays 10 to 20 percent of gross sales revenue for salaries ,hospitality – pays 30 percent and restaurants too pay 30 percent, they added in letter.

These parents had added that tuition fee is defined as the fee charged for imparting teaching and instructions. “In other words it covers the salaries of the teaching staff,” they stated. Adding that,” It does not include statutory benefits extended to the staff. These benefits are paid out of the reserve funds of the school, they contend. Also that tuition fee does not include maintenance of the school campus, debate the parents.

Demand of Parents

“You are requested to take into account that most businesses have either closed (like hotels, tourism industry) or are on the verge of closing down,” stated the letter. Adding that some of the parents would have lost their jobs whilst others would have taken a 30 – 40 percent pay cut, it stated. “It should be a matter of serious concern that some parents would be withdrawing their wards this year and also next year due to the uncertainty surrounding the reopening of the school as well as the inability of the parents to pay the 2nd installment. Worrying about children who will not be able to attend school due financial issues, they requested the school management to step into the parents shoes and judge the matter in its correct perspective. Stressing that,” this is the best time to display fair play and justice by noble and compassionate actions.

These parents have proposed a 50 percent discount/waiver of the total fee. Adding that,” this would mean waiving off the 2nd installment and refunding/adjusting the excess amount from the 1st installment.” The parents meanwhile have decided not to pay the fee till the Government reply on 5/10/20.

(Why 5.10.20) Court observations in the order

Whether concept of ‘Tuition Fee’ can be held to be applicable to a complete residential school which does not compartmentalize the fees/charges under different heads, is a question which needs consideration by the State. The notification dated 27.05.2020 as it stands, cannot be applied in its abstract form to the respondent school. However, we direct the respondent-State to examine the issue of difference between residential/non-residential/partially residential school vis-a-vis applicability of any direction which will be issued by the State in terms of para-5(v)(i) above and take appropriate decision in terms of same directions.”


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