Putting a cap on annual fees charged by self-financed schools across Gujarat, the state government on Thursday passed a crucial legislation in the legislative assembly under which schools will not be able to charge more than Rs 15,000 for primary section, Rs 25,000 for secondary and Rs 27000 for higher secondary classes. “Education is a service and not a business… For those who want to earn profits should open a factory or a business establishment,” said state minister for education Bhupendrasinh Chudasma while tabling “The Gujarat Self Financed Schools (Regularisation of Fees) Bill, 2017” in the House this evening.
“This law will be applicable to all schools in the state. Under this law, all primary, secondary and higher secondary schools affiliated under CBSE, International Board, ICSE board and state board will be covered,” said the minister who also went ahead a announced the maximum ceiling that schools can charge students. “For primary section, the maximum fees is 15000, for secondary it is 25000 and for 11th and 12 standard it is 27000… This is the maximum annual fees,” he said while explaining how officials from his department visited schools in rural and urban areas to arrive at the figure.
“Over 80 percent of the schools in the state fall under this bracket. It is the remaining who need to be regularised,” he added without disclosing the number of schools that will be covered under the law. Narrating to the House how he has been receiving complaints from parents from across the state, the minister said, “Donations are being taken beyond imagination. Schools decide which brand of shoes to buy and from which shop. The sale outlets of these brands are set up within the school compound and the parents are forced to buy uniforms, water bags, shoes, school bags, etc. This is not a good precedent.”
“A crorepati family once told me that his grandson’s school had asked him to bring Rs 25000 for a celebration of a festival. He said he can easily afford the amount. But what right does the school have to charge such an amount,” Chudasma said adding that the schools across the state have been involved in collecting fees for Holi, Uttarayan and Diwali celebrations. “This is not fees. It is extortion. This has caused personal pain to me. I cannot bear it any more and so we are bring in this legislation,” he added.
Under this legislation, a Fee Regulatory Committee will also be formed that will keep a tab on the school fees. “No schools can take donations,” Chudasma said. The offences and penalties prescribed under this Bill includes a fine of Rs 5 lakh for the first offence, Rs 5-10 lakh for second and cancellation or withdrawal of registration/affiliation/no-objection certificate of the school on a third offence.
The Bill, however, exempts pre-primary schools which are running play groups, creches, etc. Before the Bill was passed by a voice-vote in front of empty Opposition benches (members were earlier suspended), some of the BJP MLAs asked the minister to extend the coverage of the Bill to include pre-primary sections as well.
Apart from this Bill, the Gujarat Assembly also passed five other Bills including The Gujarat Land Revenue (Amendment) Bill, 2017; The Gujarat Panchayats (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017; The Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development (Second Amendment) Bill 2017; The Gujarat Private Universities (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017 and The Gujarat Motor Vehicles Tax (Amendment) Bill 2017.