An employee of St Xavier's School in Ranchi accepts fees through a PoS machine on Thursday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Most reputable English-medium schools in Ranchi affiliated to CBSE and ICSE have switched over to the cashless mode of accepting fees, a bulk of them during this new academic year, leaving many parents in a fix.
The problems of parents range from lack of know-how in transferring funds online to having to pay extra service charge, delays due to poor internet connectivity and more.
"Not properly acquainted with online transactions, I asked a friend on April 14 to pay the fees of my daughter, a Class VIII student of Sarla Birla Public School, Mahilong, by debit card. I was happy with the quick service till I saw Rs 19,614.20 had been deducted from my friend's account when the actual fee is Rs 19,420. Now it seems the exemption which income tax gives for paying school tuition fee is taken back in the name of cashless transactions," said an angry woman.
A homemaker, whose son studies in Class V of St Xavier's School, Doranda, said badly wanted to learn depositing school fees by netbanking or using cards. "The school management sent us a notice in March about the cashless mode of depositing fee. I have realised I have to pay an extra sum ranging between Rs 15 and Rs 85 as service charge for cashless payment. Now I need to learn to do the transaction myself. It is an extra burden," she smiled ruefully.
But even net-savvy parents feel irritated by the new rule. The father of a Class XII student of JVM Shyamali said internet connectivity was often so poor in Ranchi that one had to patiently sit for an hour in front of the computer to pay school fees.
A businessman, whose two sons and two nephews study in DAV Public School, Gandhinagar, said he was worried when school management demanded he pay fees for three months at a time by cheque when it introduced cashless fees. "Fees of four kids for three months! I pleaded with the school management that paying this huge sum was impossible at one go. They kindly exempted me and accepted fee of one month by cheque," the businessman said.
Principals admitted these were teething problems. Sarla Birla Public School principal Paramjeet Kaur said she had spoken to bank officials to reduce service charges. "I told ICICI Bank, with which our school is associated, that service charges would be zero to promote cashless transaction. But, they said these policy decision were taken at a higher level."
Principal of DAV Gandhinagar S.K. Sinha said though they asked parents to pay three months' fee by cheque, they make exceptions in case of genuine problems.
Principal of JVM Shyamali A.K. Singh, however, said the cashless system was running smoothly. "I think our parents have adjusted well with it. We introduced it last year," he said. Justifying transaction charges taken by bankers, he said: "Doesn't cashless payment save commuting costs and time? We Indians should learn to pay some price for convenience."
General manager of State Level Bankers' Committee Prasad Joshi said he had asked banks to train school and college students on cashless transaction. "If students learn, they can teach their parents. These problems are temporary. Transaction charge is levied only if debit or credit cards are used. To save this money, people can activate netbanking and transfer the fee directly to the school's account," Joshi said.
"If the cashless mode of school fee payment proves exploitative for parents, we will agitate. Right now, we are observing the situation and taking parents' feedback," president of Jharkhand Abhibhavak Manch Ajay Rai said.