When nine-year-old Ishaan Patel did not reach home at his regular time on Friday evening last week after school, his parents spent a harrowing time looking for him. They found him around 40 minutes later, sitting at a BEST bus stop far from the home route. It was after talking to the child, that they learnt that he was asked to leave school because they had not paid the fees.
Ishaan with his mother Manisha Patel
The school, however, has refuted the allegation. It said that the parents had not responded to reminders for the payment of fees and it asked the boy to keep his school bag in the principal’s cabin, so that he would bring his parents to talk to the school authorities.
Ishaan, a resident of Kandivli, studies in Std III of Our Lady of Remedy High School in Borivli. His worried parents have filed a non-cognisable (NC) offence with the police against the carelessness of the school authorities, and are to approach the education department. They claim Ishaan is suffering unnecessarily while they are unable to pay the fees, and the school is resorting to inappropriate ways of pressurizing them.
Ishaan’s mother Manisha, who works with a private company told mid-day, “We agree that we are lagging behind on paying the fees. But because of that he cannot be targeted in school. Thankfully, Ishaan was safe. What if something unfortunate had happened? Who would have been responsible for it?”
She added, “I have not received any reminder from the school regarding payment of fees. A teacher shouted at him for late payment of fees, and then asked him to go home. He is just a child. How was he supposed to know what the teacher exactly meant by ‘go home now’? He took it literally. It is sheer carelessness on the school’s part that a child goes out of the premises while the school is still in session and the authorities are not aware of it.” She added that they are soon going to pay the fees.
The school however refutes that the incident occurred in the middle of the school session. Father Don John D’Souza, manager of the school, said, “The school gets over between 5.30 pm and 5.45 pm after which children start heading for their respective buses. This child was asked to keep his bag in the principal’s office at 5.30 pm. He has been lagging behind on payment of fees since August. But we have not disturbed his studies. We kept sending reminders to the parents. But as the parents were not responding and had also skipped open-house day, the principal decided to keep his bag in school, so that the parents would take the effort to come and meet the authorities.” When asked if Ishaan was dropped home in the school bus or went on his own that day, D’Souza, said, “I am not aware of it. But the parents have not even paid the school bus fees. Which is why, it was later decided that the parents will drop him to school and pick him up.”
Education officer Shambhavi Jogi said, “Under Right To Education (RTE) Act, no child should be subjected to any kind of punishment as it amounts to harassment and humiliation. There were other appropriate ways for the school to demand fees from the child’s parents such as withholding the result, or school-leaving certificate of the child.”