For the last 22 days, two students of lower kindergarten and class 1 at an internationally recognised private school in Coimbatore have not been able to attend their online classes like their friends.
According to the girls' parents, their school remains closed like all the others in Tamil Nadu amid the coronavirus pandemic. They have alleged that the school has disabled the girls' online class access after they could not pay the full fee, as demanded.
"Your Google account was disabled by your G Suite Administrator - this message flashes when they try to log in. The school cleverly activates the link for a few minutes and disable it so that on record it appears as though my children had attended the class," the girls' father - an advocate in Chennai - told NDTV.
The charges have been denied by the school, which claims the disruption could be due to "multiple reasons".
"The school only has disabled the access for my children. They are suffering mentally and emotionally," added the father, whose income was hit, like that of many others, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trouble began for the girls' father, after he paid the first-term fee of Rs80,000 for his elder daughter and Rs66,500 for the younger child. He says he could not pay the second term fee, which was allegedly demanded by the school despite the Madras High Court's July order.
According to this order, schools in the state are only allowed to collect 75 per cent of the tuition fee collected last year; 40 per cent of this can be collected as advance before August 31 and the remaining 35 per cent in two months after reopening and commencement of in-person classes.
The girls' father has said the school's demand violates this order, adding that his payment amounts to more than 40 per cent of the fee, and that he is complying with the court's order.
"No child should be denied an education because their parents have lost their income during this pandemic. Since the school follows IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum they claim India's laws do not apply to them as they are not part of any Indian board," he said.
Ashok Kumar, the Chairman of the Indian Public School in Coimbatore - where the children study - did not respond to NDTV's request for a comment. However, the school's Director Ms Thara, in a statement to NDTV, denied that they violate the High Court order.
Calling online classes non-mandatory on the part of the school, Ms Thara cited several challenges including technical glitches, struggling teachers, salary to staff amid the pandemic.
On the question of disabling students' online login IDs over alleged non-payment of fee she said, "The interruption could be due to several issues - not just technical but also financial payment issues with our infrastructure provider. We are trying our best to offer online classes and without interruptions, if possible. We have requested parents to bear with us."
We are not forcing any parent to pay any fees higher than what was stipulated by Hon'ble High Court, she added.