A 37-year-old taxi driver, Manjunath Gowda (name changed), 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 died down 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. “The school is demanding Rs.1,600 for the school day expenses, Rs.1,500 as computer fees, Rs.2,500 for books and Rs.100 for application form,” a worried Mr. Gowda told The Hindu.
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 paying 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 they would not be able to bear the fees demanded by the schools under various heads.
A mother, whose son had obtained a seat in a private school in Davangere, said 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 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.
L.R. Shivarame Gowda, chairperson of the Joint Action Committee of Private Schools, said the government reimbursement fixed at Rs.11,848 a year for a child admitted to Class 1 and Rs.5,924 for a child in pre-school was not sufficient.
“The government has not responded to our concerns,” he said. He, however, said action must be taken against schools which were charging such fees as it was against the law.
Nagasimha G. Rao, convener of the RTE task force, who has received complaints from parents across the State, said a majority of them were unable to pay fees and had decided not to get their children admitted under the RTE category. “There is a need for 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 the schools were not permitted to charge an “undue” sum 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.