Govt should ensure no child drops out due to inability to pay fees: Guj HC

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Ahmedabad, Feb 2 (PTI) The state government should ensure that parents are not compelled to withdraw children from schools due to the inability to pay the fees, the Gujarat High Court has said.

The government should pay attention especially in cases where parents find it difficult to provide education to the children due the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it said in an order passed last month.

'Education is something which should never be compromised,' the judges said in the order passed on January 8 and made availableon the HC website on Tuesday.

A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice J B Pardiwala had taken up a public interest litigation `suo motu' (on its own) based on a survey by the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and UNICEF Gujarat.

The survey highlighted the hardship faced by many households during lockdown, more particularly due to the non- availability of mid-day-meals at government schools.

'Before closing this litigation, we may remind the state government to ensure one thing that the inability to pay the fees should not compel the parents to stop providing education to their children,' the bench said.

'It is possible that the help rendered by the government might not have reached a few families. This is what the survey talks about. The government should pay due attention to such genuine cases and try to render assistance in all possible manner,' the court said.

The survey was conducted among 375 low-income parents from Ahmedabad city between July to September 2020. Nearly 31 per cent of them had children attending government schools.

It showed that 85 per cent of the parents of children attending government primary schools could not get any other help when schools closed and mid-day meals stopped.

Despite the government asking schools to give relief in fee payment, 54 per cent parents said they were asked by private schools to pay fees during lockdown, and over 40 per cent parents were totally unaware of the fee relief order.

Among those asked to pay the fees, more than 50 per cent admitted that it was difficult for them to arrange the money.

Less than two per cent had access to laptop and Wi-Fi connection even as schools started conducting classes online.

But the state government in its response said the sample size was too small and did not present a correct picture. The government provided food security allowance in lieu of mid-day meals, it said. PTI KA KRK KRK