Agitation against ‘fleecing” by schools in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun : Residents of Doon Valley in Uttarakhand in general and parents, whose kids are studying in school are keenly looking forward to April 24. It is on this day that the Shiksha Jan Sangharsh Abhiyan, an umbrella organization of various social welfare groups, will be taking out a ‘shiksha adhikar rally’ against what they allege as “fleecing” by private schools in the city.

There has been a spate of sporadic agitations in which agitators, ranging from parents of kids studying in a particular school to members of organizations like the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and others have literally barged into schools to discuss the issue of alleged fleecing by the private managements.

Popular opinion is that the turnout at the proposed rally could force the concerned authorities, including the education directorate and the chief minister to take action against the erring schools and directions be issued for the future limiting the hiking of fees by just five per cent and doing away with the other norms like taking building donations and forcing purchase from a particular shop.

Public schools

The main allegation as of now is the hike in the fees being charged by the schools by as much as 25 per cent, which parents claim is too high and allege that there is no check on the managements of the private schools who have their say in hiking the fees every year. This, despite the fact that it is an accepted norm that the fees, if hiked at all, will be at most by ten per cent.

Parents alleged that the private schools force the parents to buy books and stationery requirements from a particular shop, from where the school managements reportedly get a cut in the from of commission and also of buying the school dresses from a particular shop for the same reason.

“It is not that the shop keepers of the selected shops not only charge more for the books or uniforms that have to be bought from that particular shop, but also there are huge crowds at the shops as parents of almost 400 to 500 students converged on the shop to make the purchase, because of which the parents have to undergo a harrowing time”, they alleged.

Other allegations that are being made against the private schools include the increase in the transportation charges, imposition of annual fees and taking money in the name of building donations. “The education directorate seems to have no control whatsoever on the autocratic functioning of the private schools”, claimed harassed parents.

There were even allegations of huge sums being taken by the schools management at the time of admission, for which no receipts were issues. This was confirmed by a former staff of a school on conditions of anonymity when he told Hill Post that he had gone for the admission of a friend’s child, but the headmaster clearly told him that it would not be possible without the donation. “This when I am an old boy of the school and was a member of the staff for 20 years”, he pointed out.

However, the school managements claim that certain people with ruffled feathers for reasons best known to them were trying to create problems for the schools by forming a parents organization, when their children were not even studying in the schools. “It is the easiest way to browbeat a school management by creating a ruckus at the school and defaming it to tarnish its image”, they added.

They were of the view that the rising cost of inputs including increasing the pay of the staff is something that has to be catered to and the school can only do so by increasing the fees as this from where it gets the funds to run the schools. “The increase in fees is just about 10 per cent or so and barely enough to meet the increased overheads”, they claimed.

However, with the increasing number of children and eagerness of parents to get their kids into the best schools of the city is putting pressure not only on the schools and the parents but also on people with clout who can manage an admission. It is well known that pressure is put by politicians of various hues to officers including that of the police, education directorate and the district administration on the schools for admission, which is why they look the other way at allegations of fleecing by the school administration.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt was Editor, Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish had worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, he was a recipient of many awards Jagdish Bhatt, aged 72, breathed his last on 28th August 2021 at his Dehradun residence.

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