Amid a series of protests by parents against collection of tuition fee, the Chandigarh administration on Wednesday invoked provisions of the Disaster Management Act to rein in private schools.
Now, no private school in Chandigarh can increase the fee for the current academic year. Also, they can charge only tuition fee, at the same rates as in 2019-2020.
The schools have also been told to display details of the fee structure, specifically tuition fee, as per provisions of the Fee Regulation Act, 2016, on their websites and intimate the administration by June 15. The orders have been issued by UT adviser Manoj Kumar Parida under Section 39 (i) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
The orders effect 77 private schools in the city, which have over 1 lakh students.
Earlier, the principal education secretary had issued orders deferring collection of fee in view of the Covid-19 lockdown. After schools protested, schools were allowed to collect only tuition fee.
Schools had been questioning the earlier two orders, arguing that only the fee regulatory authority can issue any such direction, that too if it finds any infirmity with the school’s decision. The matter is still pending in the Punjab and Haryana high court, where schools have challenged the UT’s decision to charge only tuition fee. Meanwhile, there has been a spurt in protests outside schools across the city.
Nitin Goyal, president, Chandigarh Parents Association, said: “We welcome the relief in form of reversal of fee hike. However, the term tuition fee continues to be the bone of contention since most schools merged all other heads under it in the recent years. So they will try to wriggle their way out.”
However, HS Mamik, presidentIndependent Schools’ Association, Chandigarhsaid: “The order has put schools in a quandary as 90% of the fee has been received, and by June 10, entire fee will be collected under the previous model.”
“It is a disastrous decision under the garb of the Disaster Management Act. We are totally confused. We will have to go to court to get our grievances addressed,” he said.
In the fresh notification, the UT has reasoned that schools were asked to display their balance sheets on their website, which they failed to do. Also, the fee structure has not been uploaded. This was done despite the fact that schools have to comply with all directions of the administration under the land allotment policy.
The UT has also reasoned that it was receiving a lot of complaints from parents about a hike in tuition fee and various funds being collected under its head.
As the seven-day deadline given to 51 schools to respond to show-cause notices issued to them lapsed on Wednesday, director school education Rubinderjit Singh Brar said district education officer Alka Mehta has been tasked with preparing a report of the replies.
All private schools had been asked to upload their balance sheets on their respective websites. However, only a few complied with the orders. The remaining were put on notice. “The DEO will submit a report, which will be discussed in the meeting of the fee regulatory body on June 15,” said Brar.
Also, as some schools that did upload the balance sheets showed surplus of funds, Brar said another committee under the accounts branch has been constituted to check for profiteering. He said the penalty on erring schools will be decided by the fee regulatory body in the upcoming meeting.