Forum for Students’ Parents organised a protest demonstration outside the district commissioner’s office in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh on March 11 against the “fleecing” of students by private Schools in the state.
Despite the HP Private Education Institutions (Regulation) Act and other regulatory bodies, managements of private schools continue to fleece parents of students studying in these schools. Convenor of the Forum, Vijender Mehra told Newsclick, “There is no legislation to regulate the fee structure, administration process and syllabi of the schools. There are 1,472 private schools in the state and the fee structure varies between Rs 2,500 and Rs 50,000.”
Private schools charge “admission fee” every year along with tuition fee, smart class fee, sports fee, building funds and so on. After the Education Department asked the private schools not to charge admission fee every year and also refrain from forcing the students to purchase uniforms, books and stationery from specified shops, not only were the instructions flouted with impunity, but the schools also struck down two separate columns of admission fee and building fund, and instead clubbed them under ‘annual fund’.
“Admission fee should only be charged at the time of admission, and not every year. What these schools have done now is that they charge ‘annual fund’ instead, and in this annual fund, they charge admission fee and the remaining fee collectively to eyewash the parents,” added Mehra.
According to Right to Education (RTE), 25 per cent of the seats have to be reserved for the children coming from economically weaker sections of the society. Yet, no school in the state is following this guideline of the Act. In 2014, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had issued fresh guidelines to private schools to follow the rule. However, no school in the state has acted upon it, according to Mehra.
“The HP High Court had also directed the schools to follow the MHRD order in 2016, and then in 2018, the Supreme Court also gave orders regarding safety and security. But the schools here again paid no heed to them. They are fleecing us with exorbitant fee structures, and the government is colluding with these institutions” alleged Mehra.
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While the fee structure of the private colleges and universities is approved by the Higher Education Department, there is no such provision for private schools, and parents are forced to pay heavy fees.
Another functionary of the Forum and a parent told Newsclick, “Looting us is one thing, but the attitude of the authorities of these schools towards the parents when we question them is extremely bad. A certain principal of a school went to the extent of saying that if you cannot afford to send your child to our school, then send him to a government school!”
The principal who was quoted by the parent has also made public remarks like “why don’t parents raise any objections at the time admission? How come they only realise it after their child gets admission that these are expensive schools?”
Shockingly enough, the state’s Education Minister Suresh Bharadwaj recently made a similar press statement, asking the parents to send their children to the government schools if they cannot afford such institutions.
“Mr minister should be aware of the conditions of the Government schools in the state. There is no recruitment of teachers, no proper course material, no proper infrastructure and to make statements like that only goes to show that neither does he care about the state of education nor about us. They just care about their own benefits,” commented Mehra.
The forum has submitted a 14-point charter of demands to the DC in Shimla, and is also going to meet the education minister on March 13.
Other demands included in the charter of demands are: compulsory provision of school-buses and setting up of compulsory Parent Teacher Associations along with making “school trips” which cost an additional sum of Rs 30-35,000 optional rather than compulsory.
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