January 11, 2010

Protests against fee hike intensify

MUMBAI: The parents' protests, against the state's controversial Bansal-committee report on school fee regulation have escalated over the last one month. On Sunday, over 600 parents from across Maharashtra gathered in Panvel to protest against the fee hike imposed by some school managements. A number of schools in Navi Mumbai have hiked their fee by up to 70%.

In Sunday's protests, parents called for immediate government regulation of private school fee. In May 2009, after widespread protests over school fee hikes, the state government promised to set up a fee regulatory body for private unaided schools, along the lines of the Shikshan Shulka Samiti for higher education. But a draft report released by the committee was, according to parents, biased in favour of school managements. TOI was the first to publish the contents of the report on October 6.

While the high court initially stalled all school fee hikes across the state after the Maharashtra government promised to come out with guidelines on school fee regulation, the court later lifted the stay as a temporary measure till the government came out with its guidelines.

Incidentally, the composition of the government's committee to look into fee hikes has been the bone of contention for long. The majority of panel members were either management representatives or education department officials. There were very few parent representatives on the committee.

"Our protest is targeted at the government. It's because they have failed to come out with guidelines on school fee regulation that managements are hiking their fee indiscriminately. A recent Supreme Court order allows state governments to regulate school fees,'' said Jayant Jain, president of the Forum For Fairness in Education.

According to Jain, after the high court lifted the stay order on school fee hikes, schools began using it as an excuse to hike fee. "Many schools are charging fee under several headings such as building fee and activity fee. This is illegal as it violates the Maharashtra capitation fee act,'' he added.

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