Calcutta, July 23: The government today threatened state-sponsored schools with “strong action” if they charged fees beyond the prescribed limit.
School education minister Partha De told the Assembly that his department was flooded with complaints of schools compelling guardians to pay several times more than the government’s limit.
“We are examining how these schools can be penalised. It has to be strong action. We’ve already warned some of the schools,” De said when Democratic Socialist Party member Brahmmamoy Nanda wanted to know if the government was aware of the practice.
School education is free in the state up to the higher sec- ondary level. So, there is no tuition fee. But the secondary and higher secondary schools take money from students under various other heads for daily expenses. Officials said no such fees are taken at the primary level.
The government bears the entire expenditure on the salary of teachers in nearly 14,000 state-aided secondary and higher secondary schools and provides a small amount for their everyday functioning.
“It’s a matter of serious concern that a large number of state-sponsored schools are constantly increasing their fees, though they are not supposed to charge more than the permissible limit ,” De said.
“The trend is dangerous — state-aided schools mostly cater to children from lower income groups and poor families,” he added.
But at least one headmaster said that the schools are forced to charge higher fees because the government doesn’t provide enough for essential expenses.
“A school with 1,000 stud- ents has to spend nearly Rs 80,000 a year to conduct examinations. But it is entitled to a maximum of Rs 10,000 a year,” said Ashoke Maity, the general secretary of the West Bengal Headmasters’ Association.
According to norms, a secondary school can charge a maximum of Rs 65 per student in a year. Higher secondary schools can charge up to Rs 90.
“We have received complaints that some schools are taking up to Rs 1,000 a year from a student,” an education department official said.