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Parents Protest Loot by Himachal’s Private Schools, Education Minister Advises Sending Children to Govt Schools

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Loot by Private Schools in Himachal Pradesh 2

Shimla- Levying of hefty fee by private schools in Himachal Pradesh continues despite instructions by the Supreme Court, State High Court and MHRD Ministry. The assurances of the State Government to regulate private schools has also proved insignificant. Parents allege that after court orders to remove the building fund and the admission fee, the schools have only changed the methods of fleecing them with exorbitant fees.

Now, their free booklets have removed the colums of building fund and admission fee and replaced them with annual charges, tuition fee, smart-classroom charges, SMS service charges etc. They have not only adjusted the previously charged funds under new columns but also hiked the total charges, parents alleged.     

Distressed parents have organized under the banner of Parent-Student forum and are again out on the roads to protest against private schools and incapability of the government to take appropriate action. They are asking the government to regulate private schools and make them accountable and responsible. Three main demands of the parents include regulation of fee structure, syllabus, and admission process.

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On March 11, 2019, parents gathered outside the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, to hold a protest. On March 13, the forum staged another protest outside the Directorate of Higher Education. The protests are likely to continue until the government addresses the issue, suggested the convenor of the forum, Vijender Mehra.

Parents complained that schools did not consult them before implementing fee hikes for the current session. They also alleged that schools flaunted all regulations while doing so. After extracting hefty fees, some schools were charging an additional Rs. 35-40 in the name of tours, parents alleged. If that was not enough to burden the parents, the schools charge money for their events too, the convenor of the forum said.

My son was in the second class last year, and I paid about 50,000 to the school as various fees. This year, I will have to pay more,

a father told Himachal Watcher on the condition of anonymity.    

Schools have imposed compulsions on parents regarding purchase of books and uniforms. Parents are strictly ordered to buy them from shops selected by schools, where books and uniforms are sold at thrice or four times the normal cost, the convenor said.

Vendors selected by schools set stalls inside the campus and parents must buy books from these vendors. It’s a strict instruction given by the school. These vendors sell books at a higher price as parents are rendered helpless by the school,

said another parent on the condition of not mentioning the name of the school.

Schools tie up with these vendors and fetch fat commissions from them every year on the sale of stationary and uniforms, the parents allege.

If the number of students enrolled in these schools is considered, then they are earning almost over Rs.6 crores per year. Including the commissions from books and uniforms, this amount increases to almost Rs. 7 crore. Their expenditure including salaries of teachers doesn’t exceed Rs. 3 crores. Rest of the amount is their surplus,

the convenor of the forum said.

Himachal Watcher talked to some parents of children enrolled in various private schools in Shimla. It turned out that Rs. 30,000 – 50,000 per annum is a common amount for the majority of schools. For reputed ones, this cost reaches upto Rs. 60, 000.

I have two sons enrolled a reputed private school in Shimla. Elder one is in class II and younger one is in LKG. Last year, I paid about Rs. 90,000 as their fee,

a mother – resident of Summerhill- told HW.  

The schools justify annual hike and hefty charges saying that they are fully self-funded. To hike salaries of teachers, the fees are also hiked every year, non-funded private schools argue.

According to Right to Education (RTE), all private schools are supposed to reserve 25 percent of the seats for children hailing from economically weaker sections. In 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had also issued fresh guidelines to private schools. The parents alleged that schools are not following these rules. The government, they alleged, is behaving like a mute spectator.

It is seen that MLAs, bureaucrats, leaders of the ruling, as well as the opposition, enroll their children in reputed private institutes because they don’t believe in the quality of education and facilities provided in government institutes. While middle class parents also dodge the government institutions because they have begun to find consolation in the fact that their children are at least receiving the best possible education they can afford to secure their future, which government schools cannot provide.

I won’t send my children to government schools because I want them to explore their full potential and develop their personalities. I want them to develop enough self-confidence and communication skills to face the modern, tough competitive world. Currently, government schools are just not able to offer much to children,

said a father of two and resident of New Shimla.

What Does Education Minister Says?

The Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, in response to these protest, told media that he is well aware of this loot. His advice to parents was to send their children to Government schools. As per the Minister, the Government schools are tip-top and quality of education is at par with private schools.

Since assuming the office, the Education Minister was reluctant to accept that a decline in enrollments in government schools is a result of the degrading quality of education. As per his statement in February 2019, parents send their children to private schools for it has become a status symbol. He also claimed that introducing pre-nursery classes in about 390 government schools have resulted in the additional enrollment of 40,000.  He also claimed that 99.7 percent of government schools have toilet facility and that 18 percent of the budget is being spent on education.    

It’s pertinent to mention that the HP Private Education Institutions (Regulation) Act does exist, but its hardly playing any role in regulating schools.

The school aren’t even following the instruction given by the Directorate of Higher Education to submit records of their annual charges for the session 2018-2019.

Other states have developed their own regulatory mechanism to deal with loot by private schools. For example, the State of Gujarat has the Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act. It makes State Government competent of forming laws for state boards, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). 

However, it appears that the Government in Himachal is trying to delay forming and implementing any such regulatory law.

Parents also question the government’s disinterest in the implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

Moreover, irrespective of political parties in power, private schools are hardly audited.

In January 2018, right after coming into power, the Education Minister had assured the people that a policy would be introduced to check arbitrary fee structures of private schools in the State. The laws formed by other states to prevent private schools from exploiting parents financially would be studied, he had said. He had also said that very soon these schools would be brought under the Regulatory Commission.   

In March 2019, the Education Minister has again given an assurance that the Government would make provisions to regulate private schools.  The Government did not mention any deadline or estimated time it would take to frame laws and implement them. Meanwhile, schools have already begun extorting this year’s fees.

The parents also said that they would be meeting the Education Minister during the current week with their plea. The parents have warned the government of more such protests if no action was taken to tighten the noose around these schools.

What Does Law Say?

Operation of private schools and commercialisation of education has long been a matter of litigation across the country. The Supreme Court in December 2018 had ordered a 20 per cent decrease in fees charged by upscale private schools. The schools were ordered to return half the fees they had charged for summer vacations. This order was applicable across the country whose fees were in excess of Rs 5, 000.

The apex court had also ordered that private schools can only increase their fee by five percent each year.

Before it, cases like Islamic Academy of Education versus State of Karnataka (2003) and Modern School versus Union of India (2004) have clearly stated that educational institutions should be allowed to make only ‘reasonable surplus’. The schools were expected to use this profit to provide better facilities and not for profiteering by the school management.

Apparently, the welfare of society lies in putting a check on the commercialisation of education. Good education lies at the foundation of a strong, healthy democracy. At least, education must not be put on sale.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

Campus Watch

Govt Prepares Alternative Academic Calendar to Compensate Loss in Education Sector, No Decision on Opening Schools Till May 3

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HP Govt Decision on Opening schools after may 3

Shimla-Education of students, especially in schools, is also hit by COVID-19 pandemic. Like several other sectors, the education sector is faced with a problem it never before came face to face.

In this regard, Union Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD) Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank presided over a video conference meeting with Education Ministers and Secretaries of School Education Department of all states and Union Territories to discuss various issues pertaining to the education sector in the country in the wake of coronavirus.

Education Ministers of 22 States and secretaries from 14 States and Union Territories attended the conference. Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy Smt Anita Karwal and senior officials of the Ministry participated in the meeting.

Pokhriyal said that whole efforts should be that our 33 crore students do not face any difficulty and can continue their education. For this, various efforts are being made to strengthen the online education platforms like DIKSHA, Swayam, SwayamPrabha, Vidyadaan 2.0, E-Pathshala, Educational TV Channel of Doordarshan, DishTV, Tata Sky, Jio, Airtel DTH etc. The Minister also said that apart from this, an alternative academic calendar has also been released by NCERT which states can adopt according to their local situation. Also, we have to prepare safety guidelines in case of opening of schools.

Mid-day meal scheme has also been continued during the summer vacation for students. Doordarshan is providing education curriculum content through various programmes with DTH services on 33 channels.

The Minister appealed to all the States to start the process of evaluation of answer sheets of Board exams and facilitate CBSE to evaluate answer sheets of the students in their respective States.       

Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj while interacting with Union Minister apprised that distance learning initiatives are being taken up by the department through the Internet and Doordarshan Himachal. Now, DD Himachal is also available on Airtel DTH at channel number 406. He said 66 percent students from elementary classes and 72 percent students from higher classes are on board in distance learning initiatives.

The Minister said that efforts are being made for reaching out to students through All India Radio. 

The HP Board of school examination has conducted exams for all papers of class 10th. A plan is being prepared for a few papers left of plus two standards.  The textbooks have been distributed to all and mid-day meal is also being distributed. The State government is also preparing post-lockdown strategies for the education sector.

He urged the Union Minister to approve four Kendriya Vidyalayas in the state. He also demanded the mid-day meal facility for pre-primary classes.

Rest, the decision over the opening of schools and other educational institute is likely to be taken during the next Cabinet meeting scheduled for May 2. Also, the Prime Minister would take decision on the lockdown and state government would wait for his address on May 3 before taking any big steps.

The lockdown is likely to continue with relaxations and implementation of exist-plans in the green zones.

Moreover, the opening of schools would require facilitating public transport. Therefore, the Transport Department would also have a say in this matter.

Secretary Akshay Sood, Director, Elementary Education Rohit Jamwal,  Director, Higher Education Dr. Amarjeet Sharma and other senior officers of the Education Department were also present in the meeting.

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HP Govt to Teach School Students via Doordarshan, Whatsapp, Website, Radio 

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HP Govt school to teach online and via doordarshan

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government today announced to launch the e-learning and teaching for 10th and 12th standard students of the state through Doordarshan. The online learning facility from home will be provided to students under Himachal Doordarshan Gyanshala programme from 17 April, 2020 onwards, it was informed.

 The education department has prepared programme according to the syllabus of HP School Education Board for 10th and 12th classes. The programme would be telecast from 17 April for three hours from 10 AM to 1 PM for different subjects as per the time table.

 The Government further informed that the ‘Learning from Home- Har Ghar Pathshala’, a home based teaching programme for the students from grades 9 to 12 is functional during the lockdown period of COVID-19.

 This programme would help the students to get access to online videos and worksheets from their homes on the Govt Website and Har Ghar Pathshala Website. This programme would start from 16 April, 2020 between 10 am to 1 pm daily till the regular opening of schools, informed the Government.

 Under this programme, the Government claimed, all the students would regularly receive daily videos and home work through WhatsApp groups with teachers on important topics.  Their homework would be regularly checked by the teachers and also provide feedback.

 Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj said that the education department is also planning to broadcast the study material on TV/Radio/FM to cater every student of the State.

 Secretary Information and Public Relations Rajneesh, Secretary Finance Akshay Sood, Special Secretary Education Hemraj Bairwa, Director Higher Education Dr Amarjeet Sharma, Director Information and Public Relations Harbans Singh Brascon and representatives of Doordarshan Shimla were present of the occasion.

 

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Shimla’s Private Schools Forcing Parents to Pay Fees Amid Lockdown Despite Govt Directions to Extend Dates

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Private school fees in Shimla

Shimla-Already infamous for charging hefty fees of various sorts throughout the session, private schools in Shimla are still most concerned about their fees. The spread of COVID-19 and nationwide lockdown were not good enough reasons to refrain from compelling parents to submit fees from the beginning of the lockdown. Earlier, they were forcing parents to submit their fees by March 31st.  At that time, the government was still mulling over the period of relaxation in curfew and its frequency. On top of that, schools did not offer online service for depositing fees online, which implied that parents had to walk to the bank associated with the school.

Taking note of it, on March 27th, the Department of Higher Education directed the schools to stop forcing parents and extend the last date of depositing fees to April 30. The Education Minister also told the schools to facilitate parents during the lockdown and extend the last dates. But the administration has never been a deterrent for these schools. The schools continued to persuade parents to deposit fees despite the directions. Some parents accepted even violating lockdown to deposit fees.  

These schools claim they are taking online classes which included giving home-work and assignment through Whatsapp or some other apps. Now, some schools are experimenting with some applications that allow conducting online classes for a few hours.   

Now that the extension of the lockdown is almost inevitable, these schools again started to agitate parents for fees. They have been only asked to extend the date, not to exempt payment of fees. 

“Despite repeated reminders, some of the private school managements are forcing the parents of the students to deposit the school fees during countrywide lockdown/curfew in the state,”

the said a notification issued by the Directorate of Higher Education again on April 9.

“In view of the lockdown/curfew and the pandemic situation in the State the date of deposit of school fees of privately managed schools is hereby deferred till further orders and it is further directed not to force the parents of the ward to deposit the school fees during this period,”

the schools were further directed in the same notification.

The Department said it would take strict action against offenders. However, these schools are least worried about such directions because the students of government officials also study in these schools. On the other hand, the parents can’t come out to openly criticize the functioning of the school where their children are enrolled. Rest, the managements of private schools are well aware that the standard of education offered at the government schools leaves parents with no choice but to kneel in front of them. 

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