Private school administration discriminates against those who are not ready to pay more

Students of Mary Ann Matriculation Higher Secondary School at K.Pudur here are treated as equals only for five and a half hours a day — the stipulated duration for taking classes in matriculation schools.

After that, children of parents with deep pockets are allowed to stay back for a few more hours of extra-curricular activities while the others are asked to leave.

A long-drawn dispute between a section of the parents and the school management over school fees reached boiling point this week as the latter announced two different school timings — shorter duration for the children of those who were keen on paying government-prescribed fees and longer one for the children of the parents who were willing to pay more.

As per the new scheme, regular school hours for kindergarten classes would be from 8.30 a.m. to 12 noon. However, the children of those willing to pay more could participate in extra-curricular activities between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Similarly, the regular schools hours for the students from Classes I to XI would be between 8.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. But those paying more could stay back up to 4 p.m. for other activities. The regular schools hours for Classes X to XII would be 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by extra-curricular activities till 5.30 p.m.

Rafeeq Raja, parent of two students of the school, alleged that the management had introduced different timings to humiliate the parents who had complained to various authorities, including Collector Anshul Mishra, about the demand for more fees than what was determined by Tamil Nadu Private Schools Fee Determination Committee.

“At a meeting last month, the Collector warned the school correspondent against collecting excess fees. But ever since the news of Mr.Mishra’s transfer became public, the correspondent started behaving rudely with us,” he claimed.

C.Arul Vadivel alias Sekar, a lawyer practising in the Madras High Court bench here, pointed out that the idea behind insisting on uniformity among schoolchildren, right from dress to the syllabus, got defeated when schools started discriminating between the poor and the rich.

He also recalled that Lakshmi School at Veerapanjan here had also followed different timings in 2011.

Then, the parent of one of the students filed a case in the High Court bench challenging it and obtained favourable orders.

When contacted, A. Jayapaul, correspondent of Mary Ann School, said the situation in 2011 was different. “Then, there was no court ruling in favour of school managements.

But now we got a judgment passed by a division bench of the Madras High Court in Kavi Bharathi Vidyalaya’s case on April 29 this year,” he added.

In the judgment, the bench held that provisions of the Tamil Nadu Private Schools (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act - 2009 would not be applicable to extra-curricular activities offered at schools.

“In a competitive world… parents and students clamour for higher and better standards of education, demand better opportunities for exposure of the students to various curricular and extra-curricular activities like sports, games, dance, music, painting, art and other activities. A private educational institution is legitimately entitled to cater to these demands of parents.

“When extra-curricular activities are conducted by private unaided schools beyond school hours and when they are wholly unconnected with the course of study, the same cannot be interfered with by the State or by the School Fee Determination Committee…,” the court said.

Taking a cue from the judgment, Mr.Jayapaul justified the introduction of different school timings. He said: “As per rules, matriculation schools are supposed to conduct classes only for five and a half hours a day, which I am doing for those who pay government-prescribed fees. The extra-curricular activities such as computer classes are conducted for those who pay more. A majority of the parents are happy with the arrangement and are willing to pay money to get quality education. It is only a minority of them who keep creating problems.”

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