May 07, 2009

HC stays school fee hike (ToI - Mumbai)

MUMBAI: In a huge, albeit interim, relief to parents across the state, the Bombay high court on Wednesday restrained schools in the state from hiking their fees. A division bench of Justice J N Patel and Justice Mridula Bhatkar granted the order following an assurance from the Maharashtra government that it would indeed set up a committee to monitor and regulate school fees (reported in TOI on May 2).
"Schools that have already hiked their fees for the new academic year will have to restore them to the pre-hike level," Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary (school education), told TOI. "Schools that wish to hike their fees will have to file an application before the proposed fee fixation committee. This committee will take the final decision on the matter," he said, adding that the committee would be set up in about eight weeks.
Wednesday's court order came in the wake of a petition filed by around 160 parents of students studying in the Bal Bharati Public School in Kharghar. Around 1,800 students study in the school which follows the CBSE syllabus. The parents complained that the school, which was charging around Rs 1,400 per month as fees, had hiked them by 50% for the next academic year which commences in June.
Kumar told the high court that the circulars would be issued to all schools in the state in this regard within a couple of days.
There are around 775 aided schools in Mumbai which charge nominal fees. In addition, there are close to 600 unaided schools, which follow various syllabi, including CBSE, ICSE and IB. Many of these schools have hiked their fees steeply this year, evoking howls of protest from parents already hit hard by the economic slump. What's more, there was no corresponding improvement in the teaching or facilities offered, they complained.
Last week, state education minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had said that the new proposed body, to be set up on the lines of the Shikshan Shulka Committee that regulates fees for higher and technical education, would monitor the fees of SSC, ICSE, CBSE and IB schools.
Parents, while welcoming the order, were however waiting for clarifications. "In recessionary times such an order is welcome. But, what about parents who have already paid the fees for the next academic year?" asked Sarita Deshpande of Borivli.