Education department tells Mazgaon school to return Rs 1.45 crore to parents

Final notice sent to St Mary’s School, Mazgaon, asking it to return Rs 1.45 cr it had taken from parents under various categories that essentially amount to capitation fees

More than a year after the Bombay High Court gave clear instructions to the management of St Mary’s (SSC) High School in Mazgaon to return Rs 1.45 crore to parents of many students who have studied or are currently in the school, parents have some hope of getting hold of the money.

St Mary’s School
Quick take: Over a span of a few days in May 2010, St Mary’s School, Mazgaon, collected Rs 1.45 crore from the parents as capitation fees, a 2012 letter from then education deputy inspector (south Mumbai) had stated. File pic

In 2012, mid-day had reported about the issue of the school asking for capitation fees. Now, the school education department has sent a final notice to the school management as well as the south zone education inspector to ensure that the money is returned to parents at the earliest.

“The notice has reached the school as well as my department. It clearly states that the school has to return this money to parents through electronic clearing system (ECS) for the benefit of children and my department will be supervising this transfer of money to parents,” said B B Chavan, south zone education inspector.

He added that despite a court order, the school had not adhered to the same, but this time the education department will ensure that the order is followed.

The case first came to light in 2008, when a parent filed an RTI application to find out why the school was charging a bulk amount in fees. The information obtained revealed that various heads under which the school was charging fees all amounted to capitation fees.

This case was dragged to the state education chairman, who called for a hearing in his office in Pune. In 2012, the education department stated in their reply that the school was indeed charging capitation fees and had to return Rs 1.45 crore to parents.

“We were paying in the name of activity fees, development fees, PTA membership fees, etc, and all the money charged under these heads was going into the pockets of the school management officials. Till date the school hasn’t managed to provide separate toilets on each floor for the students. We want our money back,” said one of the parents whose son used to study in the school till 2012.

The management has always maintained that the money collected from parents was utilised for the betterment of students. “We have submitted our records to the auditors, and they have given us a clean chit. We understand that the court has given an order, and we will see how best to adhere to this new circular,” said Fr Francis Swamy, a member of the school management.

How it started
The collection of unlawful fees came to light four years ago when a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) member filed an RTI query, enquiring about the structure of fees at the school. Nanasaheb Kute Patil, the PTA member and parent of a then-student, had told mid-day, “I want back the money that the school took from me in the form of activity fees, computer fees, PTA membership fees. The school collected this whole amount from the secondary school students.”

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