In September of 2009, an aggrieved parent showed up at the MIDC police station in Andheri, armed with plenty of indignation. St Xavier's School, Andheri, had allegedly asked Dinesh Dubey, who was seeking admission for his younger son in junior KG, for a 'donation' of Rs20,000.
When he admitted his first son, Dubey had paid Rs11,000 as 'donation'. When it came to dipping into his bank account for the second time, he knew something had to be done.
“School authorities told me that if I couldn't pay, I should have thought through before having children,” said Dubey, who then proceeded to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) against the school management.
The Ryan Group, under which St Xavier's, Andheri falls, promptly took the matter to court, seeking to have the FIR quashed. The group argued that whatever Dubey paid was a voluntary contribution. The Bombay high court will hear the case on August 30.
Dubey sought relief under the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation Fee) Act, 1987, which prohibits schools from charging capitation fees, or fees under other ambiguous heads not authorised by the education department. The Ryan Group has challenged the Act itself.
“The government has failed to implement the Act properly,” said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum for Fairness in Education (FFE). “The Act doesn’t have any rules. Even the police don't know under which section the FIR is to be filed.”
While parents routinely complain of donation demands from school authorities at the time of admission, very few speak out, afraid that their child may be victimised. “Sometimes, I think I should not have filed the FIR. It has taken a lot of my time and money,” said Dubey.
Others who have filed FIRs don't have happy stories to tell. The FFE itself has filed two FIRs, and helped another parent file one in May against St Elias School in Khar. In the first two cases, school authorities got the FIRs quashed. The St Elias case is in progress, and will be heard along with Dubey's case on August 30. “Meanwhile, our children are being harassed by the school because of the FIR and our refusal to pay hiked fees,” said Sanjeev Jadhav, who filed the FIR in May.