Parents protesting against the sudden hike in tuition fee across private schools in Delhi on account of the Sixth Pay Commission have been vindicated.
A tell-all audit report of 25 unaided schools submitted recently by the Comptroller Audit General of India (CAG) corroborates the gnawing suspicion among parents that the fee hike was indeed unjustified.
According to the report - that was submitted to the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary of Education and the Lieutenant Governor in the first week of November - several sought- after institutions should not have footed the bill of salary arrears to the parents as they had adequate reserve funds to pay the increased remuneration of teachers.
Thirteen out of the 25 institutions audited by CAG were found guilty of burdening parents and these include prestigious names (see box) such as Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram, Amity International School, Saket, Air Force Bal Bharti School, Lodhi Road, Mount Carmel School, Anand Niketan, St. Xavier's School, Raj Niwas Marg, Sadhu Vaswani School, Presentation Convent Sr. Sec School, St.Mary's School, Mayur Vihar and G. D. Goenka School, Vasant Kunj.
There are a total of 1,211 private schools in Delhi. The 25 schools were randomly selected covering six districts of the Capital and have been audited for the period from April 2006 to March 2009. The audit, which has been conducted in the context of a Recent Public Interest Litigation filed with the Delhi High Court on the issue of fee hike, is a first of many to come.
CAG report finds the hike unjustified
The report states: "All these (13) schools had free reserves, which as per directions, should have been utilised first to pay the salary arrears from January 2006 to August 2008.
However, the school management first collected tuition fee from students to the maximum permissible extent and then utilised their free reservesâ€¦ to meet balance liability. These schools, thus, unauthorisedly collected ` 13.08 crore and placed avoidable burden on parents." Delhi Public School, RK Puram, for instance, collected salary arrears over Rs 2.5 crore even though it had a reserve fund of more than Rs 15 crore at its disposal as of March 2008.
Summer Fields School in Kailash Colony, on the other hand, had its students pay arrears of up to Rs 95 lakh when it had close to Rs 5 crore in its reserve fund.
"I was there at the time of the audit and the observations made by the CAG are completely correct. I, too, had objected to a fee increase when the school had adequate funds to meet the hike in salaries.
"Parents were being footed the bill to meet the needs of the owners. But education today has become a commercial commodity," said a former principal of popular school in South Delhi, who did not wish to be identified.
The Principals of Delhi Public School, R. K. Puram, St.Xavier's School and Amity International School, Saket, could not be reached despite repeated attempts. D. M Sharma, director, GD Goenka, did not wish to comment on the issue as he was out of town.
The CAG, however, has also pinned the responsibility of such gross violation on the Delhi government. "The (education) department did not fulfill its obligation to get the accounts of unaided school duly auditedâ€¦ due to weak governance by the DOE the schools continued to enhance fees despite having surplus funds," the report states.