With schools reopening, household budgets have gone for a toss thanks to exorbitant fee structures. Authorities find themselves helpless in arresting the trend.
Hyderabad: There is an air of expectation over anything new. More so, if it is the advent of an academic year. New classes, new books and new friends — students are on cloud nine. But parents view the new academic year with fear and trepidation. Household budgets go for a toss. Families have to do tightrope walking to make room for exorbitant school fee, uniforms, books and transportation.
This year, there is a hike of 20 to 40 per cent in the school fee across the board. If it is a fresh admission, then one should be ready to cough up hefty amounts towards building fee, library fee — all euphemism for donations and capitation fee. Transportation charges have also registered a rise with auto drivers demanding an extra Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 per child. In some schools the transportation charges for ten months work out to half of the annual fee.
Though there are enough legal provisions to take action against school managements which charge exorbitantly or violate the agreed upon fee structure, authorities find themselves helpless with the courts staying operation of several GOs which seek to regulate admissions into educational institutions and prohibit collection of capitation fee.
The GO 42, among other things, calls for setting up of a District Fee Regulatory Committee with the district Collector as the chairman. The Committee is supposed to scrutinise the fee hike proposed by unaided schools or aided schools with unaided sections. The GO also bars holding of screening tests for admission. Another GO 44 insists on admission for 25 per cent seats reserved for disadvantaged groups and weaker sections. But there is interim suspension of both the GOs with three prominent schools challenging them in court.
The only option left for the government is GO MS 1 of 1994. It can rein in the erring educational institutions by insisting on prominent display of the fee fixed by the school governing body after taking into account the expenses to be incurred under recurring and non-recurring items such as infrastructure, salaries, and running expenses. “We will give one week time for the school managements to put up the fee structure prominently. Action will be taken against those who fail to comply or charge more than what is notified,” warns Hyderabad Collector S.A.M. Rizvi.
The district authorities plan to put up the fee structure of all the private schools in the Hyderabad district on the website of the District Educational Officer. There are 2,100 private schools in the city, including 430 unrecognised.
Authorities also plan to look out for conduct of screening tests. In many well-known schools, admission in elementary classes is based on screening tests and interviews of both the children and their parents. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, lays down hefty penalty ranging from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 50,000 against schools which violate the rules. But all this remains on paper as the management cock a snook with impunity.
The 815 government schools in the city have their own tale of woe. Most of them are plagued with lack of basic amenities. Absence of toilets is a big dampener, particularly for girls. “We have grounded 39 toilets and they will be ready shortly,” says Mr. Rizvi. There are about 416 vacancies of SGT and School Assistants, mostly in the subject of physical sciences. Authorities have pinned hopes on the next DSC to fill them up.
In a welcome move, authorities do not intend to disturb teachers anymore by requisitioning their services for data collection, meeting and training. “We want them to stay in schools and concentrate on teaching,” says V. Usha Rani, State Project Director, RVM.
Keywords: schools reopening, exorbitant fees, academic year, household budgets, District Fee Regulatory Committee, S.A.M. Rizvi, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, regulation