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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 7 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 world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Nauni Varsity Scholar Selected for World Congress on Agroforestry 2019, France

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Krishan Lal Gautam of UHF Nauni in France

Solan: Krishan Lal Gautam, a doctorate student of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni has been selected to give a poster presentation at the 4th World Congress on Agroforestry, being held in Montpellier, France from 20-22 May 2019.

Based on the abstract the scientific committee of the Congress has selected Krishan Lal for receiving 1921 euros grant for attending the event. This includes 340 euros for registration and other fees while another 1,481 euros is being paid to facilitate travel, accommodation, visa and living expenses.

Krishan Lal has completed his B Sc (Hons) Forestry and M Sc Agroforestry from UHF. He is presently pursuing his doctorate in Agroforestry from the university. The title of the poster presentation is ‘Effect of different types of organic manure on the production of Lepidium sativum under Morus based agroforestry system’.

Dr HC Sharma, UHF Vice-Chancellor said that it was a great achievement for a student to be selected for an international academic event of such high repute. He hoped that Krishan Lal will not only represent the institution but also shine at the event. The Dean College of Forestry and the faculty also wished him success at the event.

The 4th World Congress on Agroforestry will see the participation of more than 1000 delegates and leading keynote speakers from all over the world to address a wide range of key agroforestry research issues. It will gather facts and figures from developing and developed countries and support a collaborative effort with broad social participation. Special attention will be given to vulnerable countries and populations.

The overall objective of the Congress is to contribute to the progress of agroforestry science and practice in order to bridge the science-policy gap. Some of the topics which will be covered during the congress are agroforestry and climate change, agroforestry, food security and nutrition, adoption of agroforestry, agroforestry policies etc.

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Admissions Open for Nauni University’s Horticulture, Forestry Programmes

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Solan: The Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry has released the admission schedule for its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in Horticulture, Forestry, Biotechnology and Business Administration for the academic year 2019-20. The application process is online and interested students can apply by logging on the university website. The detailed prospectus can be downloaded from the university website.

In undergraduate programmes, the University is offering B Sc (Hons) Horticulture and B Sc (Hons) Forestry at its main campus and at the College of Horticulture and Forestry (COH&F), Neri. The university also offers B Tech Biotechnology programme at COH&F Neri. The B Sc (Hons) Horticulture programme will also be offered at the College of Horticulture and Centre of Excellence in Horticulture Research, Thunag in Mandi district, which is the fourth constituent college of the university.

The last date for receipt of the application for undergraduate programmes(without late fee) is 1st June, 2019 and with late fee of Rs 1000 is 7th June. The date of entrance test is 16th June, 2019. The test will be held in offline mode at the Solan, Sundernagar, Hamirpur, Palampur and Rampur Bushahr.

The university is also offering M Sc in its College of Horticulture and College of Forestry located at the main campus at Nauni and COH&F Neri. The specializations offered in Horticulture are Entomology, Floriculture and Landscape Architecture, Food Technology, Fruit Science, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Plant Pathology, Seed Science and Technology, Spices, Plantation and Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, and Vegetable Science. In Forestry, students can apply for M Sc in Agricultural Economics, Agroforestry, Environmental Science, Environmental Management, Forest Genetic Resources, Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Microbiology, Silviculture, Soil Science, Statistics, and Wood Science and Technology.

The university is also offering MBA and MBA (Agribusiness). The last date for receipt of online applications for M Sc Programmes and MBA (Agribusiness) programmes (without late fee) is 11th June and with late fee 18th June. The written test will be held on 27th June, 2019. The students interested to apply for MBA can fill in the application form by 6th July, 2019 but such candidates will also have to appear in HPCMAT conducted separately by the Himachal Pradesh University.

In addition to the normal seats, the university also offers the option of applying for self-financed seats in every discipline. The applicant will have to specify in the online form whether they want to apply for a self-financed seat.  In B Sc and M Sc, the candidates from Himachal are eligible for normal seats as well as self-financed. However, the candidates from other states are only eligible for self-financed seats in addition to ICAR seats.

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UHF Nauni’s 4-Day Inter College ‘Sports Meet and Youth Festival’ Kicks Off

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UHF Nauni Annual Inter College Sports Meet and Youth Festival 2019 5

Solan-The 4th Annual Inter College ‘Sports Meet and Youth Festival’ was kicked off on Wednesday at the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni.

Aimed at the overall development of students, the four-day extravaganza is seeing the participation of the three constituent colleges of the University- College of Horticulture and College of Forestry from the main campus at Nauni and College of Horticulture and Forestry, Neri.

UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC Sharma was the Chief Guest for the inaugural function. Addressing the participants, Dr Sharma stressed on the need for every student to take part in extracurricular activities along with studies.

“Sports and other extra-curricular activities are an integral part of the university curriculum and help in the overall personality development of students which was necessary for succeeding in life. Sports play an important role in inculcating discipline and improving endurance,”

said Dr Sharma.

He added that the university has taken several steps like the construction of pavilion block and new running track at the University’s Major Dhyan Chand Sports Stadium, new synthetic badminton court, kabaddi mats and volleyball courts in every hostel to encourage students to excel in sports.

In his address Dr Kulwant Rai Sharma, Students’ Welfare Officer stressed on the need to uphold the sportsman spirit in all competitions. He informed that the university has instituted Dr Puran Anand Adhlakha award for Best Male and Female Athlete. Dr Adhlakha was the first principal of the College of Agriculture, Solan.

During the next three days, the students will be participating in both track and field events. In track events, boys and girls from the three colleges will participate in 100, 200, 400 and 800, 1500, 3000, 10000 meters races and team events like 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 meters relay.

Shotput, Javelin, Discus throw, long jump, high jump and triple jumps will make the field events. In addition, teams will also compete in Football, Volleyball, Basketball, Kabaddi, Badminton and Table tennis.

Competitions in the Youth Festival were also held at the university on Wednesday. The events for the festival are taking place in five categories- Music, Dance, Literary, Theatre and Fine Arts. Students are displaying their skills in events like group dance and song, elocution, debate and extempore, one-act play, skit, mime, mono acting, poster and rangoli making etc. 

Results (Day 1)

The sports meet got underway with the Volleyball (girls) match between College of Horticulture and College of Forestry, which the former won in two sets.

In football, College of Forestry completely outclassed College of Horticulture and Forestry, Neri with the final scoreline reading 5-1 in favour of the former.

Shiva from College of Horticulture stood first in the 200 meters race (boys) while Abhay and Maheswar from the College of Forestry came second and third respectively. Kritika Saklani and Sandhya Thakur

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