The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fee freeze in schools

Calcutta, Feb. 18: After a hefty increase in tuition fees over the past year, Anglo-Indian schools in the state appear to be planning a fee freeze for the next academic session to placate an increasingly hostile government and contain public outrage.

Church officials today said heads of Anglo-Indian schools met in the city last week to discuss the freeze. “We are actually more concerned with the discomfort of the guardians and parents who may find the fees steep. They will be able to breathe easy if the fees are not increased for a while,” an official said.

The fee hike in the state’s 67 Anglo-Indian schools last year ranged between Rs 250 and Rs 700 per pupil. Increased with retrospective effect, the fees were paid in instalments in many schools.

“They have just completed clearing the instalments. Though there is need for another round of fee hike, we have decided to give them some relief,” a school principal said.

Though the schools under the Church of North India have decided not to raise the fees for the 2003-04 session, they are keeping their options open on the 2004-05 session.

Education officials said the proposed freeze arises out of a compulsion to keep the government, which has threatened to slash dearness allowance grants, in good humour.

“We do not want to put additional pressure on the guardians, who are already burdened. But our decision to hike the fees must be viewed in the context of the government’s slashing the dearness allowance grants to all the 67 schools,” said Gillian D’Costa Hart, principal of Welland Gouldsmith School and MLA representing the Anglo-Indian community.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government, which pays nearly Rs 32 crore a year towards dearness allowance for teachers of Anglo-Indian schools, did not take kindly to the fee hike because the teachers continue to be paid poorly — a point contested by the schools.

Sources close to school education minister Kanti Biswas said: “We will not water down our objective of curtailing our expenditure on these schools because they have huge earnings by way of tuition and other fees.”

The schools are debating the DA issue after the recent Supreme Court order allowing a state government greater say in the working of minority schools receiving financial assistance from it.

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