Parents have been protesting for 10 years, but the absence of a regulatory body has allowed private schools to demand exorbitant amounts as admission fees.

Explainer The decade-old fight between Hyderabad parents and skyrocketing school fees
news Education Thursday, June 28, 2018 - 16:48

It has been a decade since Hyderabad parents’ began their fight against the inordinate delays in setting up a District Fee Regulatory Committee (DFRC). Parents, who have been fighting since 2008, allege that the collusion between the ruling bodies and the private school management is glaring.

This tooth-and-nail fight against the education lobby began under the YSR government, who, in favour of the parents’ body, introduced GO 91 which prohibited private schools from hiking fees every academic year.

However, the order was soon challenged by private schools in the Hyderabad High court.

“While the HC in its judgement asked the government to make a provision for notifying the fees recommended by the District Fee Regulation Committee (DFRC), the then government filed a special leave petition in 2011 in the apex court challenging the HC verdict,” says Ashish Naredi, member of Hyderabad Schools Parents’ Association (HSPA).

“The observation by the then CJI JS Thakur came six years after the petition was filed in 2011, strictly reprimanding the state’s laxity over the issue and the lack of a fee regulatory committee. The government has been sitting on the issue ever since, allowing private schools to extort exorbitant fees from students at the time of admission,” Neradi notes.

Why the delay in setting up a DFRC?

After the SC judgement in 2016, the issue gained momentum in the state. The Opposition parties raised a hue and cry in the Assembly and an internal committee was constituted by the state education department. The committee gave its final recommendations and the education department was ready with the GO, but the CM's office under pressure from schools, asked for the formation of another committee. 

The HSPA, in protest, organised a maha-dharna at Indira Park, which was attended by around 2,000 parents. The marches and slogans, however, fell on deaf ears. The association also sent postcards to the chief minister, questioning the delay in forming the DFRC and implementing the rules.

“The High Court’s order in 2010 on the petition filed by the educational institutions had held up few provisions of the GO 91. The ruling prohibited any private school from collecting more than Rs 5,600 as a one-time fee at the time of admission. It also prohibited schools from selling textbooks within school premises or forcing parents to buy them from a specific vendor. But the provisions were left unnoticed by the state, giving a free hand to the educational lobbies to continue the loot,” Ashish alleges.

Meanwhile, many schools have collected as much as Rs 2.4 lakh from parents as a one-time payment at the time of admission, Ashish adds.

Tirupathi Rao committee: Another failure?

After the failure of the internal committee to look into the issue, the Tirupathi Rao committee was formed in March 2017 and was given a month’s time to submit a report on the issue. The association says that the ‘school fee loot’ continued despite Deputy Chief Minister Kadiyam Srihari announcing in the Assembly that schools should not accept admissions till the Prof. Tirupati Rao Committee report was submitted. After six extensions, the committee finally submitted its report in December 2017, allowing a 10% hike in fees by private schools. A hike up to 10% did not need any recommendations from the DFRC.

“Though the report has not been made officially public yet, private schools have banked on the recommendation to hoard money in the current academic year too,” says Maya Gopan, a member of a parents’ association.

According to GO MS1 introduced in 1994, private schools are prohibited from having a profit of more than 5% of their revenue.

“There are private schools in the city that have deposits of more than Rs 30 crore. The Tirupathi Rao report has made recommendations where maintenance of such huge amounts by schools would be soon normalised,” Ashish Naredi, who was also a member of the Tirupathi Rao committee, shares.

Unfulfilled promises

After the Tirupathi Rao panel submitted its report, the HSPA tried to impress upon the government that the existing laws give it the right to regulate fees to prevent profiteering, which the Committee had totally ignored.

KTR had expressed his solidarity but did not commit any action saying the subject was not in his domain.

Special Chief Secretary Ranjeev R Acharya delayed her stand stating she needed ‘more time to study the report’.

One of the reasons that the ‘private school fee loot’ continues unabated is that most private schools are aware of the condition of government schools in the state, Padma Reddy, an education activist says.

“Insurance companies are now reaping profits with ‘school-education’ loans. The schools bank on our parental instincts to wish the best for our children. The government needs to view the issue in a larger context and realise how the nexus is affecting the socio-economic order in the society,” she adds.

Citing the fact that Gujarat brought in a comprehensive Act on fee regulation in a span six months, parents have asked why the Telangana government cannot implement the same.

“Even the opposition does not raise the issue in Assembly. It does so only when circumstances heat up. While YSR seemed hopeful of putting a regulatory body in place, the Congress seems least interested in pursuing the issue,” says Ashish.

Blame game over RTE

The State Education Board issued notices in April this year asking schools about their reservation policies after facing flak for the unsatisfactory implementation of the Right to Education (RTE) Act in the state.

While most other states have ensured the implementation of the RTE Act, Telangana is yet to reserve 25% of the seats in private unaided schools for children belonging to EWS and other disadvantaged sections. Some schools are implementing the reservation policy as outlined in the Constitution, but not as per the RTE Act.

Speaking to TNM, Vasireddy Amarnath, owner of Klay school, says, “The government has opined that the fees that are reimbursed to the private schools can be put into the welfare of the government schools, where kids from lower economic backgrounds can avail free education. Private school managements cannot follow the RTE Act unless the government comes up with a clear structure on the amount that can be reimbursed to schools with different fee structures.”

As the Tirupathi Rao committee report is yet to come out with substantial recommendations, the state has ordered private schools to keep the hiked fee amount on the back burner until ground rules are set, Vasireddy adds.

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