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Chhattisgarh could soon make a law to give parents say in fee hike decisions of pvt schools

Chhattisgarh is planning to bring in a new law to regulate fees in private schools, under which parents will be part of panels to oversee school issues.

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New Delhi: After Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Delhi, Chhattisgarh has also decided to allow parents of school students to decide fee-related matters in private institutions.

According to sources, the Bhupesh Baghel government is planning to bring in a new law to regulate fees in private schools of the state. Under the proposed law, a committee will be formed in every private school to oversee all issues related to fee regulations. Its members will be drawn from the school management as well as parents.

On 14 June, a three-member sub-committee of the Chhattisgarh Council of Ministers gave its go-ahead for formation of fees committees involving parents in private schools.

The state education department is now in the process of formulating rules for these committees. Students’ parents will be provided a fair representation in the committee, said department officials, who didn’t wish to be named.

As of now, all legal aspects related to this issue are being studied.

Officials said the Chhattisgarh government will first study similar rules made by governments in other states, and then formulate its own law.

Alok Shukla, Principal Secretary, School Education, said deliberations regarding this are currently ongoing at the departmental level but its details can’t be made public.

The formation of a committee to be set up for the determination of fees in private schools has to be provided a legal framework, said Shukla.

“Other states have also formulated laws regarding such committees. We are studying all of them. It is to determine an amicable arrangement that includes all the stakeholders. It will be a kind of convergence between school management and parents,” he said.

“However, any final decision regarding this needs to be taken by the state cabinet only. The department will prepare draft law and will send it to the government, which will be brought before the cabinet later on,” he added.

The move comes as parents in the state were regularly complaining against arbitrary hikes in fees by private schools. There were also complaints that the school management had been pressuring them to deposit fees even during the Covid-19 lockdown.

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Green signal from sub-committee

After going through these complaints and the counter-arguments put forth by private school owners, the three-member sub-committee, constituted under the leadership of Education Minister Premasai Singh Tekam, gave its approval for the formation of fees committee in private schools.

In its meeting in the presence of panel members Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu and Agriculture Minister Ravindra Choubey, the panel decided that all private schools will have to constitute a committee comprising representatives of parents, academics and school management.

This committee will take final decisions on determination of school fees based on factors like arrangement of the school, level of studies and the staff, and other facilities.

Following this meeting, Tekam and Sahu issued a statement saying the sub-committee had invited suggestions from teachers, academicians, school management and parents’ association regarding formulations of rules and regulations.

The final form of the committees at private schools will be determined only after reviewing all the 1,288 suggestions received.

Once this is decided, Shukla said, the education department will take it to the state cabinet.

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What parents and teachers say

Asked about the move, the parents of students studying in private schools in Chhattisgarh said this is the need of the hour and the government must intervene to end the arbitrariness of schools.

“If the government forms a committee involving parents to determine school fees charged in the private schools, then it will be a welcome move. Private schools are completely arbitrary about increasing the fees,” said Mani Singh, who has two children studying in a private school in Raipur.

“Even during the corona lockdown, students hardly benefitted from online classes, but the school management got a new excuse to charge the fees. The government should make a law regarding formation of such committees and it should be strictly implemented,” he said.

“This will definitely ease the problems being faced by the parents. If the government ensures formation of a committee involving parents, then the practice of arbitrary increase in fees by the private schools can be curbed, because if such a law is enacted then there will also be a provision for punishing those who do not follow it,” said Nitin Bhansali, who sends his kids to a private school in Raipur.

He added that there was no educational activity in any school during the three-month lockdown, but parents are still being pressured to deposit fees.

Teachers in the state are also accusing school managements of not paying full salaries.

“My fixed salary is Rs 36,000 (per month). I am also asked to sign a receipt for the same amount but in reality I get only about Rs 25,000,” said a teacher, who works at a renowned school in Raipur, on the condition of anonymity.

The teacher said the government should audit all private schools and take strict action against such exploitation, adding that such audits might also reveal a large number of undisclosed properties obtained by owners of these schools.

What schools say

Private or unaided school owners in Chhattisgarh opposed the state government’s move.

Bilasapur-based Adharashila Vidya Mandir owner Ajay Shrivastava said, “The government’s decision is an unwanted hindrance in the working of the schools in Chhattisgarh. There is already a mechanism in private schools here to decide fee structure based on the services offered by the respective schools.”

He added, “We as law abiding citizens have to follow the diktats once any law is made but the government must keep its hands off from interfering in the working of the school managements. It has to focus on other important activities.”

The owner of another well-known private school in Raipur echoed the sentiments. The decision is unwanted and will “discourage the school managements to offer better services”, said the owner, who didn’t wish to be identified.

Other states

In 2009, Tamil Nadu had become the first state in the country to take a decision to regulate fees in private schools through a state-level committee.

Later, Rajasthan also adopted a similar model, but the issue is currently pending before a court.

Maharashtra prepared a model for determination of fees through a committee comprising teachers and parents of wards studying in private schools, with Delhi following suit.

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