In an ongoing case where parents had approached the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR), complaining that their children were punished by Billabong High International School, Thane, for protesting against arbitrary fee hike, the Thane education officer is setting up a three-member team to probe alleged mental and physical harassment of the children and whether the school is charging illegal fees under various heads.
“We are in the process of setting up an inquiry committee, which will look into alleged physical and mental harassment of the children. We will also investigate whether the school is collecting capitation fees and whether all government rules are being followed by it or not,” said Ganpat More, education officer, Thane Municipal Corporation’s education department.
In a letter the Shreenagar police, dated May 20, 2014, More has also written that it has been proven that the school is charging capitation fee, besides collecting money under sports and performing arts and school essentials.
“This is a crime under sections 7, 7A and 7AA of the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation Fees) Act, as well as section 13(2)(1). On April 2, 2014, children were confined in the library between 9 am to 1 pm. Therefore, under sections 17(1) and 17(2) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, offence should be registered against the trustees, principal and school director. The school should also be cautioned that under section 16 of the RTE Act, no student can be asked to leave the school without parents’ request,” the letter said.
The Thane Zila Parishad (ZP) education officer (primary) had also written to the school principal, on March 21, 2013, stating that though they had instructed the school not to hike fees, the school ignored it. In another letter to the deputy director of school education, the Thane ZP education officer (primary) said the school is making parents shell out an exorbitant amount in the name of admission fee, but no account is maintained for the same. The school however denied all allegations. “We had informed the parents through a letter that since they had not paid the fees for 2013-14 as per the new fee structure, they should arrange for their child’s admission in another school from 2014-15 onwards. Despite that letter parents still send their children to the school. “In view of inflation and increase in teachers’ salaries, we decided to increase the fees,” said the school. The school said both MSCPCR and the education officer have no power to regulate the fees of a private, unaided school.“We have paid the pre-hiked fees. They are charging huge amounts, close to Rs 30,000 in the name of capitation fees. We have refused to pay this money. ,” said a parent.