Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Schools citing RTE Act to hike fees

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 07:45 IST | Agency: DNA
Parents miffed at having to shell out more money despite govt already funding the education of underprivileged children.
“Anyone who does not understand the meaning of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ needs to only look at the justification being given by the school administration for hiking fees by a whopping 23%,” complained Surekha Bhadkamkar, a parent whose child studies in Goregaon’s Yashodham school’s pre-primary section, Playmate.
The homemaker’s reaction came soon after a school meeting on Thursday where principal Nalini tried to justify the Rs700 per month hike in her address. “We are accommodating children from underprivileged families in our school. We want parents to help us bear the cost of this social responsibility,” she said and added, “We should see this as our contribution towards making the country literate.”
The principal, whose speech was recorded by parents, is heard mentioning the sixth pay commission too. “We have to pay the teachers additional dearness allowance based on the cost of onions, potatoes and tomatoes. In the interest of us keeping up our standards, we hope you will not mind this small additional burden,” she said, presumably trying to sweeten the bitter pill, adding, “These fees will be frozen for the next two years.”
This, however, didn’t help in calming agitated parents gathered outside the gate. “We should protest this hike. I have two children, one in primary and the other in pre-primary. I am the only one earning and my company has not given any increment citing poor market conditions,” rued Janardhan Shetty, another parent. “The principal is evoking the cause of the children coming under the RTE Act. But what about my children?” he said.
dna tried to speak to the principal but was told that she could not speak to the media. Staff members brought attention to the balance sheet put up on the notice board near the gate. “It’s transparent why the school needs to hike fees,” said a staffer.
Yashodham school is not an isolated example, according to activists. Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education, told dna, “Many schools are using the RTE Act as an excuse to hike fees. Why should parents of children who are already paying taxes to the government be expected to pay more? The government, anyway, gives the schools Rs11,000 per child per year to help them cover costs.”
When told about schools citing delay in getting money from the government, he said, “That is between the government and schools. They can refuse to take students till they are paid or go to court, but squeezing money from the other parents is not the way.”
Incidentally, school education minister Rajendra Darda, too, called the use of the RTE Act to hike fees unjustified. “If we get a formal complaint on this, we will take action against such schools,” he said.

All is not well, say activists

Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education, said many schools are using the RTE Act as an excuse to hike fees.
Schools are citing delay in getting money from the government as a reason for making parents pay more.
According to Jain, the balance sheets don’t reflect the profiteering by the trusts which run schools
“They are registered as charities and yet make huge profits. Why don’t they make documents available for scrutiny then?” he said.

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