mid-day editorial: Schools and parents need a lesson in respect

Even as parents across the city are up in arms against schools overcharging for their children's education, one father has scored a major victory by moving the State Human Rights Commission against an errant school in Vidyavihar. As this paper reported yesterday, after a six-year-long battle, the Commission has ordered the filing of a first information report (FIR) against the school, and has also directed the additional chief secretary of the home department to pay the parent a compensation of Rs 50,000.

A glance at the details of this trailblazing case shows that in 2011, apart from the school fees for his daughter, this father had been asked to pay an additional smart class fees under the umbrella of education fees and teacher arrears, totalling Rs 1,185. This man decided that the fees were not justified and filed a complaint with the Commission.

It has been a long and frustrating journey, but this case proves that investigations need to be opened when a parent complains against a school. There is very little regulation when it comes to school charging additional fees for this or that, while parents have little option but to comply. The parents fear that their children will be targeted if they raise questions or refuse to pay. Then, of course, is the fact that there are more students and less schools or educational institutes. This means that the balance of power is skewed and the institutions hold the upper hand.

We need laws that have more teeth and can actually level the playing field between parents and these educational hubs. While acknowledging that parents can be unreasonable or obdurate at times, it is necessary that they too feel empowered to raise questions and seek fairness. In this way, we create a much healthier parent-school equation and build an atmosphere of trust and respect.

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