Fee hike: After failed talks with schools, parents on online drive

Fee hike: After failed talks with schools, parents on online drive

'If government can cap movie tickets, why not school fee?'

Fee hike: After failed talks with schools, parents on online drive

 Failed talks with school managements over fee hike have led groups of parents in the city to turn to online campaigns in an attempt to get the attention of government authorities.

The time to pay school fees for the academic year to begin in May-June has come, and parents complain that there is a steep increase in the fee.

Parents of Vibgyor High School, Kadugodi, held peaceful protests outside the school last month, demanding that the management give them an explanation for fee hike between 15 and 25%. A representative of the school told DH that the fee increases when the child moves from one section to another, such as from pre-primary to primary, because of increase in school hours, subjects and facilities. In other cases, the fee is hiked by 9%.

Unhappy with the school’s response, parents have resorted to social media to make their voice heard. One of the parents, Chanchalakshi, said, “We have started a Twitter campaign. Every day ,between 3 pm and 7 pm, we tweet about our concerns and address them to the prime minister, to Prakash Javadekar and to the HRD ministry.” So far, they have over 800 retweets, with the hashtag #PrivateSchoolFeeHikeAtrocity. She says that many parents have not paid the next academic year’s fee yet, in the hope that they will get recourse from the government.

Vinodh Ramarajan, of the Karnataka Schools Parents’ Association, posted on the Facebook group of the association, asking parents to come forward with documentary evidence of fee hike by private schools. “We filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court in September 2016. A couple of hearings happened, the court issued notices to the state government to respond but they have not done so. We don’t know when the next hearing will be, but we want to convince the court to speed up the process by showing evidence of the fee increase,” Ramarajan said.

When they filed the petition in September, they gave documents to prove their case about such hikes in seven schools, he said. “On average, the year-on-year hike is 15 to 17 %. If the government can fix a cap on movie tickets, why not on school fee?” he asked.

Hemant Misra is another such frustrated parent who has been sending out survey forms to parents in his apartment complex, asking them to give details of their children’s school fee over the past several years. After verifying the information from multiple sources, he intends to make the fee data available publicly. “Every year, the fee increases by a few thousands so we don’t realise how much it has increased from what it was 10 years ago. We need to get data from parents all over the city to see the extent of the problem,” Misra said.

Rules likely by next year

In October last year, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) issued draft rules to amend Karnataka Educational Institutions (Regulation of Certain Fees and Donations) Rules, 1999 and, stakeholders were invited to submit objections. “In the draft rule, we proposed that schools would have to give details of their fee structure and audit reports of the previous year by December 31 on an online system.

Considering the large number of objections received, we realised that we would not be able to get approval for the amendment and get the IT system by 2016,” said Ajay Seth, principal secretary, Primary and Secondary Education. The rules are likely to be rolled out before the next academic year, Seth said. A much-needed provision was to increase the penalty for violation of rules, which has been included in The Karnataka Education (Second) Amendment) Bill, 2017, Seth said.

As per this provision, a violation of prescribed rules would result in a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh. The Bill has been passed by both the Houses and is pending approval from the Governor.