A group of activists, alleging that the Thane Municipal Corporation-run schools are charging fees from students, on Saturday, demanded that the civic body refunds all the money collected from 2010 (since RTE Act 2009 came to the effect). The demand was raised during a meeting at Gadkari Rangayatan.
Educational rights group Samaan Shikshan Mulbhut Adhikar Samiti (Committee for Equal and Fundamental Right to Education), Swarajya Abhiyan and Thane Matdata Jagran Abhiyan have decided to conduct a survey of both government-run and private schools to verify if they comply with RTE norms.
Swarajya Abhiyan secretary Sanjeev Sane said: “We have called a meeting on Tuesday following which we will visit all civic-run schools in Thane to find out if they are giving students free books and other stuff including midday meal that students are supposed to get. We will also conduct a survey to find out if private-run schools are reserving 25 per cent seats for students belonging to the Economically weaker Section (EWS).
Earlier this week, it was found that seven English- medium schools run by TMC have been charging fees from students for over a decade. Alleging violation of Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009, Samaan Shikshan Mulbhut Adhikar Samiti has threatened to move court if the civic body continues to charge fees. The matter came to light when an advocate, Shakeel Ahmed, approached the Court Naka municipal school in Thane for the admission of his son. Ahmed found out that the school charges a fees of Rs 1850 per year from students. While TMC officials call it a nominal fee, activist say that the civic body cannot charge a single rupee from the students.
While education officials of TMC claimed that the fee was being charged according to an old resolution passed by the education board of the civic body, activists say the resolution became null and void as soon as RTE Act came into effect.
“It has been seven years since the RTE Act was implemented in the state. How can the TMC officials allow these schools to continue charging fees? They have violated the RTE Act,” said Ghanshyam Sonar, convener of Samaan Shikshan Mulbhut Adhikar Samiti.
Sonar added, “We have given the civic body an ultimatum of seven days to examine the matter, prepare a report on the entire issue and make that report public. It’s a serious lapse on the part of TMC’s education department. Parents must get the refund right from the time the RTE Act came into effect.” These seven schools have been charging Rs 1850 annually per student. Around Rs 14,46,700 are collected every year by charging fees from 782 students studying in these seven English medium schools.
When contacted, Manish Joshi, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Education) TMC, said, “We knew these schools have been collecting fees. However, following a complaint from the educational rights group, we have already started examining the matter. We will take a decision according to the provisions of RTE Act within seven days. This had been decided already and not after these organisations demanded it. We have never been and will never be unfair to any of our students.”