Ideally, the quality of education should not be compromised. We’ve come a long way in defining and promoting education that it’s one of the basic Human Rights.[i] In a country like India, it is of utmost important because her development both socially and economically depends on the educated future generation. As envisaged in the Constitution of India, article 21-A – the Right to Education is a fundamental right. This right makes the education of children from 6 – 14 years compulsory. This also means that the states are obliged to provide free and quality education for children of this age group. But we all know that private institutions are always more enticing than the government ones. Parents have a bona-fide belief that private educational institutions provide their children with a decent education. This is exactly what led to the creation of a market for education. Now seats are being bought with hefty amounts and education has lost its dignity and has become a mere market product. Schools demand various fees and payment from parents and burden them till they reach their breaking point.
This is a threat to the balance of fundamental rights. Education cannot be traded as it is but a promise of right made to the people. Private educations can charge for the expenses incurred for a student’s study purpose and only that. Charging extra amount for profit is strictly looked down on. But today, giving donation amounts to secure seats in private schools have become a very prevalent practice that still many people do not even know that it is not legal.
Capitation fees by schools:
After the enactment of various laws such as the Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act, 1987, educational institutions have stopped openly demanding capitation fees. Instead, they have started to collect extra amount under the heads of welfare and development funds and donations for pious purposes etc. Parents have also complained that a considerable amount of the fees that they pay are not shown in the accounts. Some schools demand extra amounts in the name of miscellaneous fees which the parents do not even know what it is used for. These fees may range upto Five Lakh rupees.
Guises of capitation fees:
“Voluntary contribution” is a prevailing trend among profit-making educational institutions. These contributions are indeed not voluntary by the parents. They are demanded capitation fees by the schools inorder to admit a student. The institutions can very conveniently show these extra amounts as voluntary contributions by individuals, who happened to be the parents of their students. During the time of admission, a secret negotiation takes place with the parents where they are asked to deposit certain amounts in the name of pious donations which are indeed a bribe for buying a seat.
“Money without receipt” is another shady element of the admission procedures. Many parents are kept in the dark about the part of money that they paid which are not issued any receipt. This amount is then appropriated into the proper accounts so that their real source is not traced.
“ Development and miscellaneous fees”, is a major scam. Some schools demand exorbitant development fees from each student for very lame reasons like development of PTE. No real development can be seen in the quality of education but the entries in accounts are so flawlessly made as to show that it is fully and ethically used.
Precautions to be taken by students and parents:
The Ministry of Education has advised the parents and students to come forward and report to the Chief Education Officer or the appropriate authority without hesitation. Many parents hesitate to report this malpractice in fear of jeopardising their child’s career. However, the government relentlessly encourages the parents to come forward. The fee payers have all the rights to know what they are paying for. When the explanation is not given by the institution and there is fee collection under inappropriate heads, the parents should be alert. Moreover, the receipt for every rupee paid should be demanded and received by the parents. They should keep in mind that the donation amounts demanded by the educational institutions in the name of development fees etc are illegal and they need not pay it.
What to do about it:
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 defines “capitation fee” as any kind of donation or contribution or payment other than the fee notified by the school. Section 13 of the act lays down the restriction and penalty imposed on getting capitation fee. The provision states that there should be no capitation fee demanded for the admission in any school. The penalty is a fine amount that may extend to ten times the capitation fee charged.
When capitation fee is demanded by any school, clearly violating the law, a complaint can be made to the Ministry of Education through a letter. Once brought to the attention of the concerned officials,
For the state of Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Educational Institutions (Prohibition of Capitation Fee) Act, 1987 imposes penalty for collection of capitation fee. Section 3 of the Act prohibits all kinds of capitation fee collected by any educational institution (schools, colleges etc.). Violating this provision will lead to a punishment of imprisonment term of minimum one year which may extend upto three years. A fine amount upto five thousand is also imposed on the convicted. However the Act allows a bona-fide donation from a person, organisation or a trust for their development.[ii]
In Vibgyor High School & Another Versus State of Maharashtra & Others[iii], the Supreme Court held that even though the private unaided schools have the discretion to fix their own fee structure, the state can intervene and regulate any kind of unusual expenses. Private institutions can conveniently charge exorbitant rates in the name of rent, building expenses etc. The government mandates the approval of fees structure of schools by the concerned state bodies. This way the state can take action on school that charge any amount in excess of the approved fee in which case the institution will have to face the legal consequences under the Capitation Fee Act.
When a capitation fee is demanded by a school, do audio or video record the transaction or the bargain like one does while busting corruption. This evidence will strongly root your case. This evidence along with a compliant letter must be submitted before the District Education Officer (DEO) or his superiors in the Education Ministry when he is not the option. They will be booked under the appropriate provision and action will be taken.
There has been well thought out laws in action for decades now, aimed at preserving the nobility of school education. But in the field, commercialisation has grown become so formidable that it is now impossible to stop it. Getting seats in exchange for donation amounts waives the importance of opportunity. For every seat that is bought with the wrong money a student’s opportunity to the same education is being denied. Effective implementation of the efficient laws in hand is the key to curb this malpractice.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] Article 26, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html
[ii] Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act, 1987 (Government of Maharashtra), http://www.sginstitute.in/pdf/anticapitationfee.pdf
[iii] LNIN2011 BOM 480.