Observing that it is disheartening to learn that a student allegedly took away her life due to lack of access to Internet for attending virtual classes, a single judge of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday referred to a Division Bench a writ petition seeking a direction to the CBSE schools not to collect additional fee for conducting online/virtual classes.
Justice C.S. Dias passed the order while restraining a CBSE-affiliated school, Sree Budha Central School Karunagapally, Kollam, from collecting fee for online classes from Sreelekshmi S. and Dhanvin M. Pillai, third and seventh standard students of the school.
The judge observed that the right to education was sacrosanct in the Constitution and was the mandated under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
According to the petitioner, the school authorities had threatened several parents that unless the fee for online classes was paid, school textbooks would not be given to their wards. In fact, the students, whose parents objected to the demand for additional fees, were denied Whatsapp voice tutorial and other medium of teaching of the first day classes.
The petitioners contended that some State governments and Union Territories had formulated guidelines for the conduct of online classes and ordered that students should not be denied education for want of payment of fees during the pandemic period.
The school authorities were insisting on payment of fee for online classes because of the lack of proper directions from the State government in this regard.
Meanwhile, Girija C.C., mother of two students from Kasaragod filed a writ petition seeking a directive to the State government and the Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) not to broadcast online classes till all the State school students were provided the technical facilities for attending online classes.
The petitioner pointed out that students, especially from remote areas as well as Scheduled Caste, Schedule Tribe and economically backward class communities, were discriminated because they were not provided with the technological facilities. Therefore, the virtual classes should not be continued till all students got access to the facilities.
She further pointed out that online classes were broadcast through Victers channel as well as smart phones. In fact, the government had directed head teachers to provide alternative facility for students who had no technological facility. But the government had not provided any fund for the same.
The government had placed the responsibility on the family of students, libraries and Akshaya centres for providing the facility and asked Samagra Shikhsa Kerala (SSK) coordinator, Student Police Cadre and NSS volunteers to ensure the technology for students in remote areas. In fact, the government had shifted the burden of implementation of the project on the others without any preparation or allotting funds, she said.