EVEN AS the Bombay High Court, in an interim order passed two days ago, allowed private schools to hike fees by 15% in the coming academic year, the order has led to confusion and even some retaliation among parents. The court was hearing petitions filed by several schools, including Pune’s Vibgyor High School, that challenged the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act.
Reacting to the order, angry parents say that this has led to confusion as it does not mention if schools that had already hiked fees in this academic year, can do so again for the next year.
In fact, a group of parents from Pune who are members of the state-wide Parents of Private Schools of Maharashtra (POP SOM), a parents’ group fighting unjustified fee hikes, will move the HC to present the concerns of parents and demand effective implementation of the Fee Regulation Act.
“The Act clearly specifies that there should be more than 15 per cent fee hike and that also, once in two years. However after this order, it is not clear that schools which hiked fees in this academic year can do so again, which would be grave injustice to parents. Even the fees that are being collected from students need to be reviewed as money is collected for so many different reasons. So when we say hike in school fees, would it mean only tuition and term fees or other fees too? We have decided to move the court in this case and demanded that parents’ plea be heard too,” said Anubha Sahai, member of POPSOM.
Parents say that a blanket court order allowing schools to hike fees may prove to be harmful, especially given the number of unresolved complaints about fee hikes pending with various education departments. “The biggest fear is that if there is confusion over the court order and it is not cleared soon, schools will take advantage of this and hike the fees. Supposing a school had hiked the fees in June by 15 per cent may go by this court order, and do it again next June, which will mean a hike of 30 per cent in school fees within 12 months. Also, if any school flouts the law and hikes the fee arbitrarily, where is the mechanism to complain? The committee, which was supposed to review fee hikes, is not yet formed while the education officers say they have no authority to take action. Such decisions will only embolden school managements,” said Dilip Vishwakarma, member of MahaParents organisation.