Kolkata: Thirteen weeks after she slammed private hospitals and healthcare institutes for overcharging and shoddy treatment, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee hauled up private school authorities on Wednesday for charging fat admission donations and fleecing parents.
She announced that there should a 15-member self-regulatory committee of the schools that should review the operations of the schools. “Why should one pay Rs 1.65 lakh to admit a child to the nursery class?” she asked the authorities of Modern School in Kolkata.
She also readily accepted a proposal from the audience that school authorities should submit their accounts to the government so that the administration can keep a tab on claims of expenditure.
“The education department secretary, representatives of the director general of police, the Kolkata police commissioner and two archbishops will be members on this body. Schools that will have representatives on the committee include La Martiniere, South Point School, Modern School, St Xaviers’, DPS, Heritage School, Shri Sikshayatan and Loreto School,” announced the chief minister.
“I shall review the workings of the body after a year,” she remarked. Last year, Arvind Kejriwal’s Delhi government decreed that private schools built on Delhi Development Authority land will need official nod before hiking fees. Only five out of 410 applicants were allowed to hike fees this year that was done after auditing the school’s finances.
The chief minister remarked that the state government did not want to directly interfere in the operations of private educational institutions, and therefore, the task of regulation was best left to the institutes.
On February 22, she set up a regulatory commission for private healthcare units, something the medical fraternity has criticised. Compared to that meeting, however, she was mellow on Wednesday.
She pulled up the authorities of La Martiniere, Heritage School and Modern School, saying that the fees were unduly high.
“It should be ensured that fat donations are not allowed and that the annual rise of fees is not too steep,” said the chief minister.
In an hour-long meeting in Town Hall, the chief minister called out schools by name, asked for the fee structure and expressed surprise at the amount of money they charged.
“You should control expenditure that are imposed on guardians over and above tuition fees under heads such as books, stationery, bags, shoes, uniform, computers, transport,” said Mamata Banerjee.
“The malpractice that goes on in the name of donation cannot be allowed. It’s not that every school does it, but many get tarnished. Impression matters,” she remarked at the beginning of the meeting.
“Why do you take so many donations? La Martiniere authorities take maximum donation. There have been police cases against the school. Please find out what is happening. There may be touts who are raising money from the market. Don’t allow the name of your institution to be tarnished,” remarked the chief minister.