Even as several schools in Mumbai and students’ parents are locked in fights over fee hikes, the divisional fee regulatory panel in Mumbai has not held even a single meeting to resolve the disputes since its inception in 2015.
This was revealed in a recent Right to Information (RTI) query filed by the parents. This means that the school fee regulation Act that came into force two years ago is still not being implemented.
The state government constituted fee regulatory panels in each of the state’s divisions on May 12, as specified under the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Collection of Fee) Act, 2011. The schools’ managing authorities are supposed to approach these panels if a fee hike goes over the 15% increase proposed by schools and approved by the executive Parents Teachers Association (PTA) panel.
At least 20 fee-hike disputes are pending with the education department for the last six to seven months but the panel is yet to hear any of them. A parents’ group, PTA United Forum filed an RTI on July 18 to investigate why the cases were pending. The deputy directorate replied to the query on Tuesday (August 16) stating, “The Mumbai division fee regulatory has not met since it was formed on January 1, 2015.” The reply was given by RR Sawant, RTI officer of the directorate.
PTA had approached the panels for intervention in the Indian Education Society (IES) school hike case in which the management raised fees by 50% for students moving from senior kindergarten to Class 1. But they were not given a hearing, complained Arundhati Chavan, president of the forum. “The department gave us vague answers that the divisional committee is busy right now. They kept procrastinating hearings,” she said, adding, “The RTI shows that the department was lying to us.”
Commenting on the matter, BB Chavan deputy director of education, Mumbai region and secretary of the panel said, “One meeting was held when the panel was formed last year but it was just an introductory meet, after that the secretary has not called us for any hearing.”
Chavan added that the panel can conduct hearings if the school managements appeal to them. “So far we have only received appeals from the PTA members but the Act states that the management of the schools have to appeal to us,” he said, adding that a meeting would be held in a couple of days to decide what to do about the pending PTA appeals. Chavan also said that the panel does not even have an office to conduct hearings in yet.
Education activists, however, suspect a nexus between school managements and the department. “In court, the department shows that they have put the machinery for implementing the new Act in place but they have not spread any awareness regarding it,” said Jayant Jain, president of the NGO Forum for Fairness in Education.
Alternate headline - Panels formed in ’15 to resolve school fee hike disputes is yet to meet.