Hyderabad: Parents are feeling the heat of the “arbitrary fee hikes” by private schools. The CBSE and ICSE schools have asked parents to pay the first term fees for 2015-16 by April 15. They have hiked fees by 30 to 50 per cent.
Parents associations are protesting against the fee hike, which they say is unreasonable. They have decided to demonstrate in front of the Directorate of School Education and the schools. Some are even planning to file petitions in the HC over the inaction of the government in controlling this menace.
Parents of students of an international school in Peerzadiguda near Uppal staged a flash protest in front of the school on Monday after the school hiked the fees without giving any notice. The principal held a parents’ meeting and informed about a 30 per cent fee hike. Parents opposed this and had an argument with the principal, who said that they can withdraw their wards if they cannot pay the revised fees. The parents staged a sit-in on the school premises demanding a rollback of the hike. They withdrew their stir only after the principal assured them that the matter would be discussed at the school board meeting. Similar protests were witnessed at an international school in Vidyanagar, which had hiked fees by 20 per cent.
Donations for nursery admissions have more than doubled, from Rs 30,000 to Rs 65,000. In medium-rung schools the fees used to be Rs 30,000 per year. This has been increased to nearly Rs 40,000 now. Parents from middle class families with two children are struggling to pay Rs 1 lakh per year to these schools. Since the last four-five years, barring a few international schools, the hikes in most of the lower-rung ones were confined to 15 per cent.
“The schools had been restrained fearing parents. However, with no major protests from parents during the last four-five years, the schools are resorting to indiscriminate hikes again. The time has come for parents to fight against this,” said Mr A. Krupakar, a representative of the Hyderabad Schools Parents Associations.
Schools justify the hikes citing costs. “To maintain standards good teachers are required. To retain them we have to increase salaries by 20 per cent every year. Expenses have increased due to the hike in rents, power charges, property tax etc.,” said Mr S. Sreenivas Reddy, president, Hyderabad Private Schools Managements’ Association.
"For any school, the sole income is fees. If expenditure increases, we will be left with no option but to increase fees," said Mr S. Sreenivas Reddy, president, Hyderabad Private Schools Managements' Association.
He, however, said that the fee hike should be reasonable and not indiscriminate. "We have been advising schools in our association to strike a balance between income and expenditure before increasing fees. Managements are being advised not to make education for profiteering but instead to look at it from a social angle.
"We, from the association, are holding discussions with schools which hiked fees by more than 15 per cent and are trying to convince them to reduce the hikes to avoid confrontations with parents," he added.
In spite of an HC ruling that the government can regulate fees in private schools, governments have failed to do so. Late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy had constituted a panel comprising IAS officials to regulate fees in 2009, and the panel had recommended an upper ceiling for school fees. It had also said that fees should be based on audited financial statements of schools. However, the recommendations haven’t been implemented.
The five-member committee was constituted in June 2009 following complaints that schools had effected steep fee hikes. The panel headed by then Commissioner of Intermediate Education, Mr Lav Agarwal and then Hyderabad Collector Mr Navin Mittal, had recommended that private schools in urban areas should not charge more than `24,000 per annum as tuition fees up to Class V and Rs 30,000 up to Class X. Similarly, the fees for private schools in rural areas should be `15,000 per annum up to Class X.
The tuition fee excludes transport, food, books, uniform and other charges. The panel had fixed a maximum registration fee of Rs 100 for all schools and had stated that they should not collect more than Rs 5,000 as caution deposit, and it should be refundable.
The panel had clarified that the upper fee limit did not mean that all schools could collect it. The fee would be decided after taking into account the expenditure incurred by the school and can be revised only once in three years. All private schools in the state would also have to take permission from the district-level fee regulatory committee for increasing fees which would be headed by the collector.
The panel asked schools to set up a governing council including representatives of the management, teachers and parents. It had also suggested that buying books and uniform from the school should be optional and that transport charges should be collected on the basis of distance.