THE MUCH-awaited Divisional Fee Regulatory Committee, Pune, which is empowered to hear complaints of parent-teacher associations regarding unjust fee hikes by schools, has finally been notified by the state education department.
The five-member committee will be headed by retired district judge Jagdish Shanbhag as chairperson and have four other members, namely Divisional Chairman of Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE) Sunil Magar, chartered accountant Narendra Agarwal, retired director Dr Kailas Bavale and deputy director of education (Pune) Ramchandra Jadhav.
Parents have expressed relief over the committee’s formation that has come into existence after a delay of nearly two years post the Fee Regulation Act. Under the Act, schools are allowed to hike fees once in two years, with the approval of their Parent-Teacher Association up to a specified limit. However, if any disputes arise, the PTA can approach the divisional fee regulation committee and later, state-level committee, if not satisfied.
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“However, in the absence of the divisional committees, it was very difficult to take action against erring schools. Yet whenever parents came to me, I used to intervene and resolve the issues. Now, that the committee has come into existence, there is no reason for parents to worry. They can now lodge complaints before the committee which is authorised to take action as per law,” said Jadhav.
He added that the committee is yet to have its first meeting, however, complaints of parents and queries have already started coming in.
The first complaint being of a group of parents from Vibgyor High School who said that there has been a fee hike from Rs 55,000 to Rs 1,22,000 in last seven years. Ajay Pandita, one of the parents, said, “We are happy that this committee has been formed for last several years, parents have been fighting against the fee hike. Since this committee is authorised, we hope it will take up our complaints seriously. However, we are unsure of what is the procedure to be followed to file a complaint.”
Parents also demanded that the state education department must undertake some kind of publicity campaign to ensure maximum parents are aware of the formation of the committee, its members and how to approach them.
“Most parents are unaware of their basic rights and even when they do come to know about the laws, they are not sure which is the right authority to approach. Now, this committee is formed but its formation remains a part of government files, how will the public and parents at large come to know about them? Parents should be informed through public service advertisements about this committee, what rights they have and how to approach them. If need be, we are ready to assist them in this regard,” said Anubha Sahai, member of parents group —Parents of Private Schools of Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, Rustom Kerawalla, chairman and managing director, Vibgyor High Group of Schools said the fee hike was nine per cent which was within the limit of 15% fee increase allowed by Bombay High Court for private unaided schools.