Over 200 students were made to wait outside their school in Airoli. The reason? Their parents, who did not agree to the fee hike by VPM International School, Airoli, refused to comply with the new fee structure and had not paid the increased fees since 2011. Besides being detained at the entrance, students were also marked out from the rest by being made to wear blank identity cards.
This caused an outrage among parents. Parent representative of the school, Vijay Dhavale, said, “We agitated outside the school because the authorities stopped our children from entering the premises. It created fear amongst the students when the school called the police. Many students fainted on the spot and were rushed to a nearby hospital.”
The discontent over the fee structure has been a raging issue since 2011. “The school hiked the fees by 40-60 per cent for some classes, which is not affordable. We complained to the education officials about this at Thane and Navi Mumbai. But the officials want the school management and parents to sit together and sort out this issue,” added Dhavale.
Vishwanath Wadekar, another parent, said, “Students have been given two different identity cards. The ones who have paid the fees have a red identity card and those who have not paid, have a white identity card. Students feel humiliated because of this discrimination. They shouldn’t traumatise them in such a way. They have hiked the fees by almost 60 per cent since 2011. We are paying the school fees according to the 2010 fee structure, which the school is refusing to accept.”
The watchman at the gate claimed he was instructed to stop students with white identity cards from entering the school. Jayant Jain, president of Forum for Fairness in Education, said, “Today the education department of Thane has sent a letter to the school stating that if they make students stand outside the school, action will be taken.”
What the education department said
A L Misal, education inspector, said, “We sent a letter to the school requesting them not to keep students waiting outside the school and deprive them from education, as per the Right to Education Act. The school has been asked to accept the fees paid by the parents. We have has also asked them to send us details of their balance sheet for checks and auditing. This will clear all the doubts regarding the profit the school is making, as alleged by the parents.”
The other side
Sandhya Soundur, principal of VPM International school, said, “Till last year, there were 100 students who did not pay the school fees from June 2012 onwards. This year, additionally, more than 100 students defaulted on their school fees, seeing that the earlier 100 students were getting the same facilities without paying.” Out of 850 students, 200 students have not paid the fees. Soundur claims that because of this, the school has suffered losses worth R50 lakh. She said that several circulars and letters were sent to the defaulters, but was ignored by the parents.