The ongoing fight between the parents and the management of various private schools over the monopoly of few shops on selling school books and school dress for hefty amount in ‘connivance’ with these schools took a new turn on Friday, as following a protest by parents and various political leaders in front of the of the deputy commissioner’s (DC) office, here, the DC assured them that the list would be uploaded by these schools on their websites within four working days.
DC Rambir Singh said the matter has been handed over to the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) and a meeting with the principals of the private schools has been called on Saturday to discuss the matter further. He added that the deadline for schools to upload the list of books has been preponed and assured the parents that the schools would upload the list within four working days.
The DC said if the schools failed to comply by the order, the administration would discuss the matter with the district education department to take the legal action against those schools.
Earlier, the administration had fixed March 15 as the deadline for schools to upload the list, but the parents were not satisfied with the order. JS Sodhi, one of the members of the parents’ association, said their only concern was to get the new set of books before the start of new session at reasonable rates. He reiterated that the schools were handin-glove with selected bookshops and gave their lists to particular stores. The stores in connivance with the school authorities further charged according to their wish, which at times were many manifold than the retail price in the open market.
Kaka Singh, father of a Budha Dal School student, said they were demanding that the schools should upload the list of books on their websites so that the parents could buy it from any bookstore according to their convenience. He said this was necessary for those families who could not afford to pay such hefty amount to purchase new books.
Meanwhile, Jatin, father of a student of St Peters’ School, said the shops designated by schools were charging ` 4,000 for a school dress, which one could get only from that particular shop, while the same dress was available for ` 1,000 in the open market.
Sanjeev Sharma alias Bittu, a leader of opposition in Patiala municipal corporation, said this issue concerned every parent in the city and needed to be resolved at the earliest. The schools have turned it into a business. He added that he would support the protest till its conclusion.
POLITICIANS IN SUPPORT
Meanwhile, political leaders across all parties, including Patiala MP Dharamvira Gandhi, Aam Adami Party local leader Dr Balbir Singh, Patiala MLA Bram Mohindra and Shiv Sena leader Harish Singla joined the parents in their protest against the schools.
Dr Gandhi said private schools have made education a profit making business, which wasn’t justified. “Instead of providing education in the schools at low cost, the schools are making hefty profits by selling books and uniforms through designated shops. It must be stopped.”
Meanwhile, Congress MLA Bram Mohindra said the schools should play a positive role in everyone’s life. “But what we have been seeing is just opposite. In case of making any changes with regard to school curriculum, fee structure, syllabus or dress code, they must discuss the same with the parents.”
AAP leader Dr Balbir Singh, meanwhile, asked the government to step in as it has spiraled into a major row between parents and schools’ management. “The government has the authority to take strict action against these schools and if they refuse to comply by the orders of the deputy commissioner, they should not hesitate in doing so,” he said.