FOLLOWING WIDESPREAD protests by parents against the hike in fees by private schools across the state, opposition parties, BJP and AAP, have demanded immediate intervention by the state government. A delegation of the Punjab unit of BJP met the Governor on Monday and submitted a memorandum demanding that the state government take immediate steps to end the chaos.
The BJP delegation informed the Governor about parents protesting in several cities across the state, including Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Bathinda, Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalalabad, Faridkot, Moga, Sangrur, Tarn Taran, Batala, Bhunheri, Bagha Purana, Mohali, etc.
It has been demanded that the education department should issue an order asking all schools to charge fees as per the previous academic session till the issue is resolved. “Thereafter every section/provision of Punjab Regulation of Fee of Unaided Educational Institutions Act, 2016, should be implemented and the state government should immediately constitute a regulatory body of the five divisional commissioners to regulate fees,” said BJP state secretary Vineet Joshi.
According to state BJP vice-president Harjit Singh Grewal, “As parents are holding processions, dharnas, roadblocks, candle-light marches, chain hunger fast, fast-unto-death etc., the issue has assumed a law and order problem. All the deputy commissioners should mediate to resolve the issue through talks and till the talks bear any fruit, the deputy commissioners should ask the schools to charge fees according to the previous academic session.”
AAP has also raised the issue of arbitrary fee hike and demanded government action. According to Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the party chief whip in the Assembly, “We want the government to regulate the private education sector as there is a free-for-all right now. Each private school and college are charging whatever amount they feel like and parents are bearing the brunt.”
Education Minister Aruna Chaudhary was not available for comment despite repeated efforts.
Meanwhile, Nawanshahr DC, Sonali Giri, on Monday asked private schools not to charge three months’ fees in advance and said that she would also ask the District Education Officer to keep a check on it. Regarding parents being forced to buy books, the DC said only NCERT books should be taught in schools. “No fee hike should be made without the recommendation of the authorised committee comprising the school management and parents,” she said, adding that a large number of complaints have been received from parents pertaining to indiscriminate fee hike, purchase of books and charging of three months’ advance fees.
In Jalandhar, parents of wards of Shiv Devi Public School recently protested outside the school with fathers taking off their shirts and sitting on dharna. Though the DC intervened to end the protest, parents are still not happy with the school authorities’ decision.