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MSCPCR issues notices to 15 schools for withholding report cards for non-payment of fees

April 18, 2023

Ronita Torcato

The Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has issued notices to 15 private schools in the state for disrupting the education of students whose parents have not paid their fees.

The Commission  received complaints from parents that the schools were  holding back report cards, and disallowing their children from attending classes. 

Commissioner Pravin Ghuge said that the mark sheets or any other educational documents withheld by schools should be promptly  handed over to students. 

He said that action would be taken against schools  which withhold certificates or other documents of students who have not paid their tuition fees.  

Arnavaz S, a parent who teaches at an NGO said, “One needs to know more before deciding if  the schools  are justified or not. My first response though is that they should not hold back the reports. ”

Aggrieved parents  point out that the fees charged by private schools are unaffordable and beyond the reach of many and that  “the school issues notices to them for not paying the fees on time. ”

 Hyacinth Fernandes, a working mother of a small school going toddler observed,” Schools do adopt these procedures. It’s been  going on from my school days. But if fees are not paid how will the schools run..”

A school admin said, “Even though our schools did not hike fees, many parents did not pay at all during the pandemic. We also have to pay for a lot of costs, including maintenance and salaries of staff, and ensure that students continue to learn irrespective of their fee payment status.”

A teacher concurred,”I think the school is justified in temporarily holding back the results. ”

In August 2021, the Maharashtra government had issued a resolution to slash all government and private school fees  in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011 specifies that schools can charge late fees from parents who fail to adhere to deadlines. 

Schools can serve a legal notice to defaulting  parents and charge a delay payment fee or late payment fee, with penal interest. The rate of penal interest shall be such, as may be decided by the Government by order.

A parent  felt there must be good reason why fees are not  paid on time. ” But the schools should not humiliate the children.”

During the Covid pandemic, parents  of children studying in private schools filed several complaints – online and offline – regarding the indiscriminate hiking of fees,  and  seeking government intervention.

 According to parents and educationists, the state’s Fee Regulation Act,  grants enormous powers to private schools to fix fees, but leaves hardly any scope for the state to intervene.

In 2018, the then Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government introduced  an amendment to the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Regulation of Fee) Act, 2011, that allowed schools to hike fees by up to 15% once every two years.

The Act was accused of being pro-privatisation and pro-management, followed by protests from parents across the state which were disregarded by the government. However,  the concerns raised then about  fee-related disputes in schools remain. 

For instance,after schools were shut in the wake of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown in March, classes moved online. With many parents losing jobs or, facing financial constraints, requests were made for concessions on fees. 

 On May 8, 2020, a government resolution (GR) was released  stating schools should stay all fee hikes for the academic year (2020-2021) and allow parents to pay fees in instalments.

The GR was, however, stayed by the Bombay high court on June 26, in response to a petition by several organisations of private school owners. Petitioners argued the government cannot regulate fees of private schools 

In August, the state government directed all schools through a circular to give a 15% reduction in fees.

The circular was challenged in the Bombay high court by some schools who  argued that the state needs to amend the Fee Act or pass an ordinance before issuing a circular. The state has not done any of this.

During covid, several private schools in the state hiked fees,or levied activity fees, laboratory fees and miscellaneous expenses, which, parents asserted, required   to be scrapped as children were learning from home.

A number of schools  used provisions under the Act to pressurise parents.  Non-payment of dues and delayed payments  resulted in schools removing children from online groups, and at times, asking parents  to shift their wards to another school.

Members of a Parents’ Association complained that the state education department did not solve a single complaint in the entire pandemic period.

Attempts to meet officials are discouraged with excuses  about pending court cases. “The root of the problem is the Fee Act which is against the interests of parents and requires to be amended.”

The Act empowers the government to audit the accounts of private schools and mandates them to upload the balance sheets on the website. The government has neither done audits nor uploaded a single document in all these years,” a parent lamented.

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