Decision taken at fee panel after talks with parents

Parents of nearly 2,000 students going to Anita Methodist Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Vepery, will soon receive Rs.1,000 from the institution. This is no cash price or incentive, but simply the excess money they paid to the school that is being refunded after the parents made an appeal. In effect, the school would have to return a total of Rs.20 lakh.

The decision was taken on Monday at the office of Justice S.R. Singharavelu, former judge of the Madras High Court, who currently chairs the Private Schools Fee Determination Committee. Principal of the school Joan Elango and a parent-representative H. Ananthakrishnan presented their cases to the Committee and later “came to a compromise”, according to sources.

“The issue was not really the fee amount. The Committee had fixed around Rs.8,000 a year as the amount chargeable and we were paying that. However, the school also collected Rs.6,000 per year under the head ‘stationery'. That, we felt was a lot,” said Mr. Ananthakrishnan, who approached the Committee with the complaint almost a week ago.

According to him, the Committee heard both sides and suggested they come to an understanding. “So, we met representatives of the school management and decided that this year Rs.1,000 will be refunded. We have also asked the management to consult us before fixing the ‘stationery fee' for the next academic year. We only want to know how our money gets utilised,” Mr. Ananthakrishnan said. According to some parents the head ‘stationery' included a long list with items ranging from examination sheets to tie and socks.

Ms.Joan Elango said: “Yes, we have decided to refund Rs.1,000 per child. The modalities have to be worked out.”

The issue of fee charged by private schools has been in the news since 2010, when the Committee, then chaired by former judge of the Madras High Court Justice K. Govindarajan, prescribed the fees for 10,934 private, self-financing schools across Tamil Nadu.

The following months witnessed a series of protests by parent bodies that found the schools charging over the prescribed amount. A section of schools, on the other hand, went to court demanding a higher fee structure. There were changes in the Committee, too. Mr.Singharavelu took over as the third chairman of the Committee in 2011, succeeding Justice K. Raviraja Pandian. Soon after, he directed that a detailed questionnaire be sent to nearly 2,200 schools in the State, in order to determine the fee amount they could charge. The information provided by them earlier was “inadequate”.

Sources in the Committee said that in October 2011 there were 1,425 schools waiting for their fee to be fixed. Gradually, the exercise was completed for nearly 600 schools. The refunds made so far amount to over Rs.60 lakh.

However, the Committee has quite a task on hand, for it aims to complete the entire exercise before April 2012.

To start with, as many as 36 schools are yet to complete their process of negotiating with parents and refunding the excess amounts collected. Around 200 schools have not come for the hearing so far, and for 200 others, the Committee is in the process of fixing the fee.

A total of 90 schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education will also soon receive intimation on how much they can charge, Committee sources said.

One issue that seems to be taking more time is the one pertaining to nearly 400 schools that were found to be functioning without a valid recognition. The matter was referred to the Directorate of Matriculation Schools.

According to sources in the School Education Department, renewal of recognition is an ongoing process. Inspectors of Matriculation Schools would inspect schools seeking renewal and share their impressions. Finally, the Directorate would decide on whether the school merits renewal of recognition.

However, officials of the School Education Department were not available to provide details of how many schools, that were found functioning without recognition earlier, have now got it successfully renewed.

RELATED NEWS

Meera SrinivasanJune 28, 2012

More In: Chennai