August 07, 2009

Collecting capitation fee? Pay penalty

BANGALORE: Here is a shocker for schools that fatten themselves at the cost of students. Collecting capitation fee? Then pay 10 times the amount collected from parents as penalty.
With the passage of the Right to Education Bill 2009, the government is all set to tighten admission norms, a move bound to come as a boon to lakhs of parents who end up paying hefty donations for their children's admission.
``Once the Centre issues the notification, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights which is the monitoring authority to implement the Bill in toto will look into all the complaints,'' sources told TOI.
There is further trouble for schools if they are found conducting interviews in the name of interaction before admitting the children. This will attract a fine ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000.
The Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, needs presidential assent and will then go before the HRD ministry for final notification.
Though many state education Acts have banned donations, they have largely remained on paper. Year after year, many schools collect huge capitation fee in the guise of development fund and parents have no choice but to pay up or opt out.
School principals told TOI that they do not charge capitation fee or donation. However, some admitted that they charged hefty fees so they could repay loans invested on the school's development. ``It's expensive to get land in Bangalore. Schools have to invest more if they want to provide quality besides providing adequate infrastructure. How will they get the money back if they don't charge capitation fee,'' asked the principal of a reputed school, on condition of anonymity.
He added: ``Suppose we give admission without taking capitation fee and later request the parents to contribute, then no one will volunteer. Hence, a few schools charge at the time of admission.''
At Bangalore's Bishop Cotton Girls' School, the payment is as per the fee structure. ``We charge infrastructure and development fee but that is only a one-time contribution at the time of admission,'' said principal Princess Franklyn.
But National Public School (NPS) group of institutions don't charge capitation fee. ``For the last 50 years, we have not taken any capitation fee,'' K P Gopalkrishna, chairman of NPS group of institutions, said.
Schools maintained that they do not have any screening procedure for parents/guardians or children. For instance, at Bishop Cotton, at the time of admission, parents apply, then applications are categorized, students are shortlisted and finally parents informed. ``Only at the last stage do we meet the parents,'' Princess Franklyn said.
Some schools maintain that interviews help them filter the applicants as they have a few seats.
With the Centre stating that the cost of ensuring education to all children will be shared between the Centre and states, implementation of the RTE will cost the state exchequer heavily. Principal secretary R G Nadadur told TOI that details of sharing the finances would be known only after the rules were framed.
``Sharing can be done through either new programmes or even existing ones. For instance, for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the present sharing ratio is 60:40 (Centre: state). For the mid-day meal scheme, it is 70:30,'' he said.