‘They cannot charge for tuitions but only for extra facilities’

A 37-year-old taxi driver, Manjunath Gowda (name changed), had brought a chocolate cake for his family after his six-year-old daughter secured a seat in a sought-after private school in Uttarahalli under a provision of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009, which guarantees 25 per cent of the seats in private unaided schools to “children belonging to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups”.

But his initial euphoria soon turned sour when he went to the school and realised that he would have to shell out Rs. 5,700 as fees to get his daughter admitted to the school. “I had learnt that my child could be admitted in the school free under the RTE quota, which is why I applied. But, now the school is demanding Rs. 1,600 for the school day expenses, Rs. 1,500 for computer fees, Rs. 2,500 for books and Rs. 100 for application form,” a worried Manjunath Gowda told The Hindu.

Explaining his financial situation, he says that with a monthly income of Rs. 8,000, he would be unable to pay the fees as he has to pay his house rent and buy food besides spending for his son’s school fees. “I certainly cannot afford to pay such a huge sum. Apart from this, I will have to spend on uniforms. So I have to explore other options,” he said.

Some of the parents whose wards had secured a seat under the RTE quota said that they would not be able to bear the fees as demanded by the schools under various heads.

A mother, whose son had obtained a seat in a private school in Davangere, said that the management was asking her to pay Rs. 3,352 for computer, health check-up and exam fees.

She claimed that the fees, which was initially Rs. 5,500, was reduced to Rs. 3,352 after she bargained with the school authorities.

“The school is charging different sums for parents depending on their paying capacity, and [that the school] does not have a uniform fee structure. While some parents were being charged Rs. 15,000, others had to pay Rs. 2,352,” she said.

‘Take action’

L.R. Shivarame Gowda, chairperson of the Joint Action Committee of Private Schools, said that the government reimbursement fixed at Rs. 11,848 a year for a child admitted to Class 1 and Rs. 5,924 a year for a child in pre-school was not sufficient.

“The government has not responded to our concerns,” he said. He, however, said that action must be taken against erring schools who are charging fees as it is against the law.

Nagasimha G. Rao, convener of the RTE task force, who has received complaints from parents across the State, said that a majority of them were unable to pay school fees and had decided not to get their children admitted under the RTE category.

“There is a need to have an effective mechanism to monitor this process. If not, the word free in the RTE Act loses its meaning.”

Responding to this, S.R. Umashankar, Commissioner for Public Instruction, said that the schools were not permitted to charge an “undue” sum of money from the parents.

“Though schools cannot charge for tuitions, they can charge for the extra facilities they provide. But, the private schools cannot exploit the parents by charging a huge sum of money. Parents can send their complaints to the Block Education Officers (BEO) concerned who will initiate action on a case by case basis,” Mr. Umashankar added.