news Tuesday, June 02, 2015 - 05:30
Recent developments at a Chennai school bring back memories of a school lesson taught about B R Ambedkar’s life: the school allowed him to attend classes, but he would have to sit on the floor.    A CBSE school in Chennai, Bala Vidya Mandir, is proposing to have two kinds of schools within the same campus – one in which children who pay lower fees can attend classes but do little else, and another in which children can participate in 59 extra-curricular activities (including access to the school canteen) which are denied to the children paying lower fees.   On Monday morning, around 400 people, parents of children studying in Bala Vidya Mandir (BVM) gathered at the Adyar campus to protest against this system of dual fee structure, other alleged financial irregularities, and violation of rules at the school.   BVM sent letters to parents on May 25, giving them a choice of two fee structures – one a basic fee as prescribed by the Tamil Nadu government-appointed Singaravelan Committee, and another, higher fee structure which provides 59 more educational institution activities for students, some of which are provided by most schools by default.   Parents have been asked to send in their decisions by June 6.   However, what played out on Monday was a unique show of strength, considering that protesting parents had the backing of the teaching staff which put their jobs on the line, some of who spoke out against the school's management over new dual fee structure.   Read- Workshop on child sexual abuse not 'beyond' curriculum: Tulir reacts to Bala Vidya Mandir controversy    Not just about the money   However, the heart of the problem is not just the division in fee structure or the inability of parents to pay the said amounts, but also an alleged lack of transparency regarding the amount of money collected by the school management.   “It’s not just about the money. We have been paying the same fees amount for the last three years. We want transparency and we want to know where the money is going,” said a parent alleging "irregularities".    The current situation stemmed from an earlier incident when parents protested after four students in April, 2015 were made to wait outside the school due to late payment of school fees.   Handling of school finances   The parents’ anger is also fuelled by allegations that the school’s finances have been handled by just one family which forms the school’s trust, in violation of CBSE Bye law rules which do not allow a single family to form the society/trust that runs a school.   Another grievance of the parents is that students from class 4 to 11 have to compulsorily take a course which is offered by one of the trustees of the school. Parents are charged Rs. 8000 per head for a Robotix course. Students from others schools enrolled in BVM are compulsorily made to take up this course after attending a “Bridge course”.   Parents also say that another such academic provision – the Meritus, an alternative to the JEE – is owned by the school’s Managing Trustee AS Ramanaprasad.   “Once a child opts for this course and decides to leave after a year, he can only do so after he pays for the next three years whether the student attends classes or not,” said a parent explaining that fees for the programme varied between Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 90,000 per annum.   Complaint   A petition signed by over 500 parents is to be sent to the Singaravelan Committee. An earlier written complaint lodged by parents in April with the CBSE over the fee structure has resulted in the CBSE-appointed Inspection Committee to enquire into allegations that the school was violating CBSE bye-laws by allowing members of one family to control the school and also to inspect the school facilities.    On the sidelines of a highly-volatile meeting at the school campus in which teachers spoke to parents about the welfare of students,“deterioration” in school facilities and alleged financial irregularities, the school CEO SS Nathan told reporters that after speaking out against the school's management in the Monday meeting addressing parents , he would not be allowed to remain in his position for longer. By evening, Nathan confirmed receiving verbal communication that he had been removed from his post.   Calls made to reach Ramanaprasad went unanswered.  Though the issue runs deeper with allegations of gross diversion of school funds however, it remains to be seen if the school management will continue to work against the demands made by parents by enforcing the discriminating two-option fee structure plan.    

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