The private schools’ practice of passing hiked fees and arrears under the garb of “7th Pay Commission” depicts how badly the entire agenda of education has been hijacked and commercialized. Private schools have upped their fees by 15% to 29.9%, thereby squeezing the parents dry. Hundreds of parents across Delhi accept that a fee increase for infrastructural development or to pay salaries to teachers is understandable, but they question how much the hike should be, and how justified it is to add arrears.
Parents do not oppose schools raising salaries for teachers. They oppose schools making education a business in the name of the 7th Pay Commission. The way in which the schools are implementing the guidelines of the Department of Education (DoE) is also highly vague and undemocratic. Parents of students from a private school have alleged that the school did not approach them in a professional manner, as only a handful parents were brought into a meeting randomly without any formal announcement of the upcoming agenda. Needless to say, some of those parents were not even fully prepared for the meeting, and the decision of fee hike was made by the school, ignoring the utter shock and dismay of the parents.
During the implementation of the 6th Pay Commission, many schools in Delhi had increased fees arbitrarily even when they had enough funds to meet the expenses. There were many mismatches between what the schools were claiming, and what the situation was on the ground. Moreover, the schools have been increasing fees by 7% to 10% every year. Then how do they not have money to pay salaries as per the 7th Pay Commission?
Given the fact that several well-known Delhi schools that have excess surplus funds but are still pushing up the fees each year, many parents are now waiting on the Delhi Government to ensure auditing of the school accounts by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in terms of Section 18 (6) of the Delhi Education Act, 1973. The Honorable High Court has put an interim (short-term) stay on the fee hike in abeyance till further clarity emerges on this issue.
A school is a temple of learning, where our thought process is rightly guided by our conscience, as directed by the teachers. But when the institution of educational enlightenment turns into a money-making business, and the students and their parents are expected to surrender by becoming puppets to fulfil unethical demands, the rot starts to build up, which soon eats away the foundation of the school.
This article and the protesting parents do not aim at taking away the autonomy of the schools or to cut down the facilities being provided by them, but we must prevent school managements from syphoning away the money they receive as fees. Not only should an audit of all private schools be mandatory, but their accounts and fee structures should be put in the public domain. Also, there should be some strict regulatory body to keep a check on private schools.