Gangtok, July 22: Chief minister Pawan Chamling today said no fee would be charged in government schools and colleges from the academic session starting August 1.
Under the central Right to Education Act, children from six to 14 years are entitled to free schooling. This means from kindergarten to Class VIII, parents whose wards are in government schools in Sikkim did not have to pay any fees.
In Class IX and X, the annual fee was Rs 1,200, which worked out to Rs 100 a month. In Classes XI and XII, the fee was Rs 1,500 yearly.
Around 1.19 lakh students in schools and 7,000 in college are going to benefit from the announcement. Sikkim has five government colleges and 776 government schools.
Chamling’s announcement has come just after days of agitation by college students against rise in fees.
“I want to make education free for all students in Sikkim so that everyone gets an opportunity to go to school. Our government is determined to work in the field of education,” Chamling told a gathering at the inauguration of a building and an auditorium of Yangang Government Senior Secondary School in South Sikkim.
The chief minister said the semester fee of government colleges would be returned. “There are some students who have already paid the semester fees. I want to assure them that the government will return the fees very soon,” he said.
Some college students had already paid the hiked half-yearly fees ranging from Rs 1,200-1,700.
Chamling did not say anything on returning the annual school fees that are normally paid in February.
Last week, students of government colleges blocked NH10 demanding a rollback of the hiked semester fees. Later, the government relented.
Chamling’s announcement means the state government will have to take care of the electricity, water, and Internet bills and the maintenance of schools and colleges.
Earlier, the institutions paid for themselves from the money collected through admissions.
The HRD department gets Rs 90 per college student per semester.
The department does not get any money from the schools.
Today, without naming any political party, Chamling said: “There are few people who are playing politics on the pretext of helping students. I urge students to be alert about such forces and concentrate on studies.”
The Sikkim Krantikari Morcha has questioned the timing of the decision. “The decision of the government is in the interest of students but we would have been happier if the announcement had come much before the students’ protest,” party spokesperson Kunga Nima said.
Government schools and colleges were declared closed from July 15 to 23 following violence in Gangtok over college fee hike last week.
The reopening date has been extended.
Principal secretary of human resource development department and education secretary, Thomas Chandy, said: “Educational institutions will be open from August 1.”
Most private institutions in Sikkim are also following the government order.
The principal of Tashi Namgyal Academy, a private school in Gangtok, K.S. Heran said the institution would follow government order an it would re-open on August 1.
Sikkim Teachers’ Association, a government body for school teachers, has welcomed the government decision to waive off fees. “Fee will no longer be an issue when it comes to pursuing studies,” said a member of the body.
East district superintendent of police Manoj Tewari has been transferred as SP vigilance, Gangtok, and West district SP D.B. Giri will take charge as the new East district chief from Wednesday. College students were demanding Tewari’s suspension after the alleged lathicharge on student last week.