Kurseong, Nov. 29: Around 200 students of St Helens’ Secondary School did not receive their results today. The reason: their parents had refused to pay the increased school fees.
The controversy simmering for the past three months snowballed today with parents submitting a petition to the Kurseong subdivisional officer, complaining against the “uncompromising” attitude of the school authorities and the institution asking for police protection anticipating an outburst.
The incident is the first of its kind in the 113-year-old history of the school, which has among its alumni the late Queen Aishwarya of Nepal and the reigning Bhutanese queens.
Anglo-Indian schools across the state have been forced to hike the fees following the government’s decision to cut its contribution towards dearness allowance. Accordingly, the St Helens’ authorities had increased the tuition fee from Rs 600 per month to Rs 900.
For some 170 parents of the Kurseong Parents/Guardians Forum, “the increment in St Helens’ is not at par with other schools and is in no way justifiable”.
School authorities said they were compelled to raise the charges. “The government has reduced its contribution to the dearness allowance (DA). Moreover, we received the last DA on Wednesday after a gap of six months. We had to increase the fees to strike a balance,” said headmistress Sister Mary Binita. “Since the number of students here is less, about 547, the increment had to be higher than other schools,” she added.
Kurseong subdivisional officer Rupen Chowdhury said state-aided schools needed to get prior approval from the government for raising fees. “I had asked the headmistress to review the cost analysis, on the basis of which the hike was fixed, at a tripartite meeting in September. She had agreed then, but nothing came of it later,” he added.
Chowdhury said an inquiry has started on why the school withheld results of the students as it is in “violation of the rules/code of the state government”. “I have asked the police for a report and called a meeting between the school authorities, parents and the administration next week,” he added.
Sister Binita, however, refused to comment on whether the institution had flouted rules.