In the past few weeks, the Maharashtra education department has been flooded with complaints from parents regarding hike in school fees. After repeated complaints, the education department visited these schools and issued show cause notice to them.
A delegation of various political party leaders and social activists recently met education minister Varsha Gaikwad in this regard demanding strict action against the schools charging unjustifiable fees and not paying attention to the requests made by the parents.
In a meeting held with home minister Dilip Walse Patil he had directed to file FIR against schools which are compelling parents to pay the fees as well as torturing the students over non payment of fees.
A team of Maharashtra state education department visited schools and gave them time till Monday to furnish their say on the complaints made by the parents. After the incidents of Kline Memorial School in Bibvewadi, Euro School, Undri and Kotahri International School in Kharadi, many parents have come forward and lodged their complaints with the education board.
Audumbar Ukirde, Deputy Director of Education, Pune spoke to Pune Pulse. He said, “We have visited schools and asked them to give their report on said incident. We have given them time till Monday. Post then we shall constitute a committee to probe and decide on their affiliation of the Board to be cancelled. As well as we have warned the schools who have kept bouncers in school and abstain from manhandling any visitor, especially parents. We have appealed that a child should not be made as a tool for blackmailing the parent to pay the fees.”
Adv. Anubha Shrivastava Sahai from India Wide Parents Association said, “Action can be taken as per the RTE Act. If the children are tortured and harassed in such a way it is unethical and inhuman. It affects the child’s psychological conditions. A case can be registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 under relevant sections by the parent or complain to education board or even the NGO’s working on Child rights.“
State Education department unable to take action against CBSE schools
But the education department has not been able to take stern action as the schools are affiliated to the CBSE Board. With the restricted powers with the education department, the school has not been paying any heed to the action taken by the department, said an official on the condition of anonymity.
Despite rising complaints regarding grievances related to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and other boards, the state education department officials claim that these boards do not entertain them as they have only limited powers. Such as giving them affiliation, keeping an eye on them and demand that a nodal officer be appointed or make changes in the provisions for taking stern action against them.
In two weeks’ time, three cases of have come up before the education board from parents and guardians about schools using its own forceful mechanism to procure payments of fees but when such issues have been intervened by the state officials the school authorities are adamant to such officials. So, the Maharashtra state education board officials appealed to the government to give them additional powers to probe such incidents or appoint some nodal officers for pursuing such issues.
Speaking to Pune Pulse a senior state government official said, “Our role is limited when it comes to Central and other international boards. Most of the complaints that are coming to us from students, parents and others of such malpractices and grievances come from the same board. Based on the complaints when we try to act upon such schools, they do not entertain us or for that matter they do not even open the gate. Same is with the police. As the school authorities claim the issue of jurisdiction and give talks on legal aspects. So there is a need for a change in provision.”
He added, “As for the fees issues there is a High court ruling in favour of schools that schools can provide instalments facilities for paying up the fees but cannot force the family. The fees cannot be denied by parents. When schools use such a mechanism the parents who have faced the issue do not want to come on record, so we suo-moto cannot take up the case as we too need to prove the case.”
Adv. Anubha Shrivastava Sahai from India Wide Parents Association to Pune Pulse said, “Yes, there should be additional powers given to Maharashtra state education but Under RTE Act. Education boards have power to constitute a committee which consists of Journalists, parents, and its officials must conduct inquiry and probe in this regard. They can also initiate Suo-moto cognisance. In this regard the Maharashtra child rights commission should intervene.”