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Schools plan return to state grant

A dozen-odd Anglo-Indian schools that had refused dearness allowance (DA) from the state government to safeguard their freedom are planning to eat humble pie and revert to the earlier system after feeling the pocket pinch.

The schools — including La Martiniere (for boys and girls), St James and Pratt Memorial — are controlled by the Church of North India (CNI).

They had in 2004 decided to forgo the DA grant, which comprised a bulk of the salary, to prevent state interference in their internal administration.

But the burden of shelling out the entire salary from their own coffers has forced a rethink among the CNI schools.

Government sources indicated that the schools that had refused the grant are saddled with an additional expenditure of around Rs 10 crore a year.

“There is a proposal that we should urge the state government to reintroduce the old system of providing the dearness allowance. We need to discuss the issue with various sections of people in the Church of North India and the school authorities before we write to the government. Talks with the government are likely to start in the New Year,” said Reverend Ashoke Biswas, the bishop of Calcutta diocese of the CNI.

The government, which had in 2004 spent Rs 35 crore on the dearness allowance of the 69 Anglo-Indian schools in the state, had announced certain curbs on the institutions’ freedom to fix tuition fees and appoint teachers.

“The government wanted to curtail its expenditure on the Anglo-Indian schools and the curbs were aimed at compelling the schools to refuse the DA grant. When the dozen-odd schools opted to forgo the grant, the government immediately accepted the proposal,” said a teacher of a CNI school.

The desired freedom from state interference came at a price, with the schools raising the tuition and other fees to shoulder the extra burden.

“Ultimately, it is the parents who are suffering,” said Herod Mullick, the general secretary of the Bangiya Christiya Pariseba.

The freedom move has also not gone down well with the teachers who are losing out on promotional prospects in the new system.

According to government rules, a teacher can be considered for the principal’s post in schools under the state board only if he/she has served for at least 10 years in an institution that accepts the DA grant.

“Many of us are competent enough to head a Madhyamik or Higher Secondary school. But we cannot apply for the post as our schools have said no to the DA grant,” complained a teacher of a CNI school.

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