On Tuesday, when Palani Kumar went to drop his son Gandhiji at school, they were stopped at the gate by eight male staff members, who refused to allow them inside.

Tirupur school wants extracurricular fee from RTE student dad protests with 6-yr-old
news Education Thursday, June 07, 2018 - 15:41

Through the day on Tuesday, and all through the night, six-year-old Gandhiji sat outside his school along with his father, Palani Kumar. The two of them held a placard: ‘Let me inside the school to study.’

Gandhiji is a student of the Kongu Vellalar Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Gandhi Nagar, Tirupur. The Class 1 student was enrolled there two years ago, for LKG, under the Right to Education (RTE) quota. Under this law, 25% of seats at the entry level in private unaided schools must be given to students coming from poor families. The school fee for such students is borne by the government.

But on Tuesday, when Palani Kumar went to drop his son at school, they were stopped at the gate by eight male staff members, who refused to allow them inside. They demanded that the father pay up a sum of over Rs 20,000 as ‘extracurricular fee’ for LKG, UKG, and Class 1 put together. Palani Kumar alleged that they even took away his bike key.

“They let my son study for the past two years, now suddenly they are asking us to pay Rs 20,000 for karate, yoga and such. Why does a Class 1 student need yoga?” Palani Kumar asked.

The ‘extracurriculars’ include library usage, Tamil and English handwriting, yoga, teaching aids, and table tennis. The school’s argument is that the government stipulated fee covers only tuition and not these additional activities.

“The school authorities have even signed forms saying they won’t charge any fees from the child under RTE quota. After having signed so many papers, why are they charging fees from the child?” Palani Kumar asked.

Gandhiji is not the only student who wasn’t allowed to enter the school. On Wednesday morning, the school denied entry to two other students, sisters Ilakkiya and Imaya, allegedly for the want of extra fees.

Speaking to the TNM, Ilakkiya, a Class 12 student, said that the school wanted her to pay Rs 11,290 more than the Rs 19,910 stipulated by the government.

“The school reopened on June 1. The PT sir and another male staff asked me to go home and bring my father, and then told him to pay an extra fee of over Rs 11,000,” she said.

“The government fee for Class 12 in this school is Rs 19,910. We have a Demand Draft (DD) for that amount already. Why aren’t they allowing my children inside?” asked Selvam, Ilakkiya and Imaya’s father.

Inspired by Gandhiji and Palani Kumar’s protest outside the school, the two girls and their father, too, joined them on Wednesday, holding placards and demanding that the school to let them in to study.

Palani Kumar meanwhile informed the Tahsildar that the school had snatched away his bike key, and also called the police. The Tahsildar of Tirupur North, KT Subramanian, intervened and recovered Palani Kumar’s bike key from the school. However, Palani Kumar alleged that even the Tahsildar was in support of the school, and did not question them about the extra fee they were charging.

By Wednesday afternoon, a meeting was held between the school management, the parents, and the Chief Education Officer (CEO) of Tirupur, Shanthi. Following this, the school allowed the children inside – on the condition that the parents pay the extracurricular fee within 60 days. Further, the CEO supported the school’s claim, saying, “As per the Tamil Nadu Private Schools Fee Determination Committee, the government pays the tuition fee. The school is well within its right to collect the fee for the extracurricular activities available in the school.”

But while Gandhiji, Ilakkiya and Imaya are back in the classrooms, Palani Kumar and Selvam said that their fight is far from over.

“We have been fighting with the school on similar issues for two years now,” Palani Kumar said. “Before, they never gave their demands in writing. It was only on Tuesday, when we stood outside the gate and protested, that they gave the list of extracurriculars and the total fee demand in writing on their letterhead,” he said.

Alleging that the school was passive aggressive towards his son because he refused to bow to their demands in the past, Palani Kumar said that he was planning to take the issue to higher authorities.

“I am just fighting for my son’s right. Only after we had a meeting with CEO on Wednesday, that they finally gave me the fee breakup and demand in writing. With this letter from school, I am planning to take it up with the district administration and seek an explanation for this. If they say that they can't interfere in the school’s decision, then we will go to court with these documents,” he asserted.

Selvam, too, is planning to file a case in this regard. “I have already given complaints to the District Collector, the CEO, Inspector of Matriculation Schools (IMS). My stance was not that I will not pay the fee, but I will pay only the government notified amount,” he said.

TNM’s attempts to reach the authorities of Kongu Vellalar Matriculation Higher Secondary school for a comment failed.

The CEO meanwhile said, “If parents find the fee expensive, we welcome them to send the children to government schools. We will take good care of them.”

But Palani Kumar called her bluff. “RTE act says that the school must provide everything that is required for the child’s education there free of cost. Either repeal the law that guarantees right to education or implement it properly. This is my demand.”

“I am fighting not just for my children, I am fighting for every child who faces this,” Selvam said.

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