Pay school fees for children orphaned by COVID-19, Supreme Court tells States

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

The Supreme Court has ordered State governments to bear the private school fee of children who have lost both or one parent during the pandemic for the current academic year in case the schools refused to waive it.

“The catastrophe caused by the cataclysmic COVID-19 has devastated many lives, especially children at a tender age who have lost their parents. More than a lakh children have lost either or both parents during this pandemic. It is heart-wrenching to note that the survival of so many children is at stake… The State has a duty and obligation to facilitate education for children,” a Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed in a 27-page order published late on Friday.

The order recorded that States have identified and registered 2,600 COVID-affected children eligible to get education benefits under the PM CARES For Children scheme. The court said it was open for States to request the Centre to bear the fee and other expenses pertaining to their education for the present academic year.

“For children who have lost either parent or both parents after March 2020, the State governments shall confer with private schools to waive the fee of the distressed children for the current academic year. In case, the private institutions are unwilling to effectuate such waiver, the State Governments shall shoulder the burden of the fee. In respect of those children amongst the 2,600 registered under the PM CARES For Children Scheme, it is open to the State governments to request the Government of India to bear the fee and other expenses pertaining to their education, for the current academic year,” the court directed.

The court recorded the details provided by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati about the ‘PM CARES For Children - Empowerment of COVID Affected Children’ scheme, “launched for support and empowerment of Covid-19 affected children”.

Under the scheme, the order quoted the government, education is provided for eligible children up to 18 years of age.

Beneficiaries would be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. On admission of the child in a private school, fees as per the Right to Education norms would be given from the PM CARES fund. The scheme also provides for covering the expenditure on uniforms, textbooks and notebooks.

Ms. Bhati has submitted that out of the 2,600 children registered by the States as eligible for benefits under the PM CARES scheme, 418 have been approved by the District Magistrates.

The court ordered the District Magistrates to complete the process of approval of the remaining children. “In case of necessity, fee and other expenditure of the 2,600 children, whose names have been registered for the PM CARES For Children Scheme, shall be taken care of by the Government of India,” the court ordered.

The court expressed its satisfaction about the schemes introduced by the Centre and the States for the welfare of children in need.

“We have no doubt that the authorities concerned would leave no stone unturned to attend to the immediate basic needs of the crestfallen children,” the court noted.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:32:21 PM |

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