The school fee hike issue seems to be snowballing into a fresh controversy in Madhya Pradesh with the Bhopal collector restraining schools from any hike this session and the additional chief secretary restraining all collectors from issuing such orders.
The clashing orders have left the schools, students and parents confused in the state capital, sources said.
Bhopal collector Nishant Warwade on April 25 issued a directive to all the schools in the district not to raise fee this academic session after he reportedly received a number of complaints from schoolchildren’s parents.
His order mentioned that it applied to all the schools, including the ones run by CBSE, ICSE, MP Board besides the government aided and the non-aided ones.
However, on the same day, additional chief secretary (school education) SR Mohanty issued orders to all the collectors and divisional commissioners asking them not to issue any fee restrain order without first taking permission from the school education department.
The collector and the additional chief secretary gave legal reasons to justify their respective stands.
Wardwade said the complaints from the students and their parents reflected that the schools were not following the relevant rules and were hiking fee without giving any logical reason behind the step.
He said the rules clearly mentioned the schools should “run as a community service and not as a business.”
To justify his order, he even quoted a Supreme Court order which stated “imparting of education is not and cannot be allowed to become a business.”
However, Mohanty said the collector’s order interfered with the ongoing case in Madhya Pradesh high court, in which the school education department had given an affidavit in the court on January 16, that it would set up a fee regulatory authority to address the issue.
Mohanty said, “The school education department is in the process of developing a mechanism for regulation of fees but it may take some time. In the meantime, collectors and divisional commissioners should take permission from the department before issuing any such orders.”
Earlier, the Gwalior collector had issued a similar order against fee hike but it was stayed by the high court following a plea from private school operators.
Coordinator of Sahodaya group, PS Kalra, said private schools fully depended on fees to run their institutions. “We are asked to pay salaries to the teachers and the staff as per latest provisions. The parents expect the best education from us and yet we cannot even decide our fees. This is ironical,” Kalra said.
Collector Nishant Warwade, however, didn’t respond to the phone calls and messages on Mohanty’s standpoint.