Parents allege that the school forced them to purchase books at exorbitant rates from a single seller.

Bengalurus Baldwin schools price books exorbitantly parents fight for justice
news Education Saturday, May 26, 2018 - 12:00

Parents of students belonging to Bengaluru’s Baldwin Group of Institutions — Baldwin Boys School, Baldwin Girls School and Baldwin Co-education Extension High School — have been forced to protest multiple times after the school forced its students to buy books only from a single vendor and at an exorbitant rate. 

The Baldwin Group is currently facing an enquiry by the District Education Regulatory Authority(DERA). Parents allege that the school forced them to purchase books at exorbitant rates from a single seller. Private schools cannot force students to only purchase a book from a select vendor.  

Megha*, a parent, says that the problem with buying books started last year itself. The school released the booklist very late.

“They released the book list very late last year, and we had to struggle to get each book from different vendors. This year, when the academic year ended, the teachers told us to give a demand draft in the name of SLV Industries for Rs 6700 for the books. Few parents gave because they were tired of the running around till the school started. Last year, the school started 15 days late because the kids did not have the books in hand when the school started,” Megha says. 

The price tag of Rs 6,700, however, was just for the books and stationary of a student going to Class 3. When the parents demanded to see the booklist for which such a high price was being charged, the school allegedly told the parents that they were yet to prepare one.

“If they didn't know what the booklist was, on what basis did they choose Rs 6,700 to be given in a DD? Towards May, every time we asked they said that the booklist was not ready, and they would send an SMS,” she says.

Murali, another parent, says that they received the exact amount they had to pay, but no other information. 

“When there is no list, how can I fill up this form? They put the exact figure that the vendor asked, including GST. The order form also did not have anything else except the name. No telephone number, no address, no mail id -- how can we believe the vendor? When we asked for an acknowledgement for the DD, they said they can't give it,” he said. 

A few parents, however, agreed to pay the same just to avoid a repeat of the previous year and were called to a private hotel to collect the books, which was guarded by bouncers.

Megha says that when they finally got their hands on the detailed booklist, it had books from a publisher which is not sold in retail. It also included three workbooks per subject and a large number of notebooks besides the textbooks. 

However, parents of students belonging to the school also say that the school denied knowing about the DD’s being collected at all.

“We do not know these people. Parents have informed us of books sold in a hotel and the demand drafts that the teachers collected. We will investigate this. The management issued no such instruction,” the principal of Baldwin Co-education Extension High School told Bangalore Mirror.

When Megha finally decided to give in and buy her daughter’s books for the coming academic year, the vendors had jacked up the price by over Rs 1000, and allegedly termed it as a late fee. 

“If I'm buying from a vendor I'll buy when I want it. We as parents, we had to give in. For my daughter, we thought Rs 6700 was too much, but we ended up paying Rs 7900. We can't send our kid to school without the books,” she says. 

Parents protested at the schools run by the group, and also decided to approach various authorities over the matter. They approached the Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner, who is also the head of the DERA and the Deputy Director of Public Instruction. The matter was then taken up by DERA, and an inquiry was launched into the same. 

“Four officials from the education department came for an enquiry. I was also asked to come. In front of those authorities itself, they (the school) were issuing order forms. Those authorities were shocked,” Murali says. 

Following that, DERA called the institution for a hearing over the allegations on Wednesday, where both sides were expected to present their case. However, no one except the advocate turned up for the school. 

“It was a clear-cut case of the school promoting the three vendors. With all this evidence, there was a hearing where five top officials from the education department were present and a judge was present. We presented the case with evidence. No school authorities were present. They sent a lawyer,” Murali says. 

At the hearing, Baldwin demanded more time to present their case and was given time till 11 am on Saturday.

“If the school management fails to put forth its justification, we will go by the parents’ version and pass an order to penalise the school,” an official at the Wednesday hearing said

*- Names changed

 

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