Mumbai parents go on hunger strike to protest govt failure to curb hike in school fees
Parents are upset as schools across the city have been hiking fees arbitrarily, in violation of the Maharashtra School Fee Regulation Actmumbai Updated: Apr 21, 2017 13:42 IST
Armed with posters and shouting slogans, parents who have their wards in 15 to 20 schools across Maharashtra came together at Azad Maidan on Thursday to protest against the exorbitant fee hikes in the coming academic year.
They want the state to put a cap on the hike, much like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The states have recently proposed an annual fee structure of Rs 15,000 for primary, and Rs 25,000 for secondary schools.
Over the past few weeks, more than seven schools in Mumbai have increased their fees without the parents’ consent. This is in violation of the Maharashtra School Fee Regulation Act, which states that schools need parents’ teachers’ associations (PTA) to approve the hikes.
Activists said that the disputes continue even after the act was enforced in 2011. In addition to tuition fees, additional money is charged under different categories, such as security deposits, admission and activity fees, which is illegal.
Parents from Malad, Ghatkopar, Dadar, Dombivli, Navi Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra participated in the protest, along with members of the Forum for Fairness in Education, a non-governmental organisation that fights for parents’ rights.
“Our school is charging us for activities like swimming, even though they have been discontinued for the past five years,” said a parent, whose ward studies in a Malad school, and is looking at an increase in fees by 10-12%. Adding that the school demands Rs40,000 annually for the co-curricular activities, school uniforms and books, he said, “It is mandatory for students to buy branded shoes from vendors selected by the school. Although fees are raised everywhere, we don’t see any change in the infrastructure.”
Many parents took a day off from work to attend the stir. “Although my school hasn’t hiked the fees this year, I know it is happening everywhere else, so I participated to support the parents,” said V Shubashree, a parent from Borivli.
A group of parents from Garodia School, Ghatkopar, met education minister Vinod Tawde on Wednesday, who allegedly assured them that the state would take action against errant schools. “But, nothing has been given to us in writing. We want the department to start cracking the whip on schools,” said the parent.
“State government authorities and the school management have formed a nexus. That is why no action is taken against schools which flout the Act,” said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education.
He added that schools had hiked fees by 20-50% across India. “Schools are given land on a concessional basis; even electricity and water are provided at a lower rate. Why such unjustified fee hikes then?” asked Jain.
On the other hand, school authorities said that they needed to raise the fee to pay off the teachers’ salaries and offer free education to 25% children from economically and socially weaker sections under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009.
“We are expected to admit students in kindergarten under the RTE quota, but the government reimburses us only from Class 1,” said Satish Lotlikar, managing trustee of Indian Education Society Schools, which has been locked in fee rows with parents for the past year.