At a time when people are grappling with cash crunch after the scrapping of high value notes, Mumbai’s teachers have complained of harassment from school managements. Reason: Schools are asking their teachers to deposit large sums of money into the latter’s bank accounts.
Since the Narendra Modi government’s November 8 decision, accusations against schools indulging in such malpractices have been pouring in to a mobile application launched recently by a parents’ organisation.
At least six teachers anonymously complained that their school management gave them money to deposit into their own accounts, and later asked them to withdraw cash in the new currency and bring it back to them. The teachers were answering a survey conducted by the Forum For Fairness in Education, India, which launched the app last month.
A few parents even reported that some schools are demanding fees to be paid in Rs100 notes. “The school authorities informed me over the phone that the fees must be paid only in cash. They refused to accept online payments or cheque. I was surprised by this (treatment),” said a parent.
Jayant Jain, president of the forum, which runs as a non-government organisation, said this is the new modus operandi followed by school managements to convert their black money into white.
“Schools make a lot of under-the-table income through donations and exorbitant fees,” said Jain.
Adding that teachers and parents are afraid to speak out as they fear losing their jobs or schools targeting their children, Jain said, “We will report it to the education department on their behalf.”
Close to 900 parents and teachers have downloaded the app so far and a majority of the complaints are against schools hiking fees arbitrarily, capitation fees and collecting money under different heads such as activity charges. According to the state law, schools must collect only tuition and term fees.
Another parent complained that a private school in Dombivli has hiked fees by 50% to allegedly fund a new school building. “The school initially told us the hike was so that teachers can be paid Sixth Pay Commission salaries and later on they changed it to the school development fee,” said the parent. Parents of students studying in a Mankhurd school said that their children are being harassed for not paying such fees.
Parents even reported schools charging hefty donations — Rs2 -3 lakh in some cases — during admissions. According to the rules, donations are banned in Maharashtra and schools face heavy fines and even imprisonment for violations.
Activists said that such cases show the government failure to implement the new Maharashtra Educational Institutions (School Fee Regulation) Act 2011. It stipulates that parent-teacher associations (PTAs) must approve fee hikes six months before the new academic year. If there is a difference of more than 15% in the fees fixed by the management and the amount approved by the PTA, the dispute must be filed in divisional school fee regulatory panels.