KOLKATA: A number of prominent schools in the city on Wednesday decided not to increase fees, in order to ease parents’ burden during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
The decision came on a day chief minister Mamata Banerjee appealed to schools not to hike fees this year. TOI had reported in its edition on Wednesday how the issue of fee revision caused a rift between the Association of Heads of Anglo Indian Schools (AHAI) and schools run by the Church of North India (CNI). Nine CNI schools — all of them founder-members — had left the 100-year-old association, citing “interference” after an executive committee meeting of the association on Monday veered towards the topic of fee revision.
On Wednesday, the schools that decided to rationalise fees during the lockdown included the Don Bosco schools, St Xavier’s Collegiate School, Calcutta Boys, South Point, MP Birla School, Saifee English Public School and Adamas International School.
An email that has gone out from Don Bosco, Liluah asks parents to pay only tuition fees and ignore the rest for the months of April to August; any extra amount already paid, according to the old structure, would be refunded. St Xavier’s Collegiate School has done away with late fines and has written to parents that there would be no increase in fees this year though the school was implementing the Sixth Pay Commission scale for teachers. Both South Point and MP Birla have waived everything except tuition fees. Calcutta Boys has changed its quarterly fee payment to monthly, doing away with late fines; all fees involving diaries, fee books etc have been waived. “We have never charged for electricity, library and laboratory use ever,” stressed principal Raja McGee.
The Archdiocese of Kolkata, which controls schools like St Mary’s Ripon Street, Loyola, St Aloysius will shortly meet over fee rationalisation during the lockdown period. Archbishop Thomas D’Souza will meet principals and take a call on whether only tuition fees will be charged and the rest waived.
The CNI schools, of which nine — La Martiniere (both boys’ and girls’ schools), St James’, Pratt Memorial, St Thomas’, Kidderpore (both boys’ and girls’ schools), St Thomas’ Church School, Howrah, St Thomas’ Day School and St Paul’s Mission School — decided to leave the association, have not decided on any fee rationalisation yet.
“These are our internal matters and we can discuss these issues ourselves. We don’t need the association to impose its decisions on us, which is why we walked out,” Bishop Paritosh Canning, head of the CNI in the Kolkata Diocese, said. “Each CNI school gives free education to 15 to 25% of its students and it is a huge expenditure. Let us decide how we need to handle the issue of fees,” he stressed, ruling out a possibility of the rift being mended.
T H Ireland, head of St James’, echoed him, saying the school had no fee-revision plan at the moment. “Ours is a hand-to-mouth situation. We even run a free evening school for the underprivileged of the neighbourhood,” he added. At the La Martiniere schools, too, there is no talk of a fee revision. “Not only have we implemented the Seventh Pay Commission, but the fact that we have a huge cost of maintaining a 200-year-old building and the fact that we are ringing in new-age safety standards have to be factored in. We spend over a crore annually for free education,” stressed secretary Supriyo Dhar.
The association, however, is planning to go all out to mend the rift, saying it could cost all stakeholders dear. It is about to approach CNI, requesting it to return to the fold. Gillian Hart, principal of Welland Gouldsmith School, an executive committee member of the association and a former president, said: “There has been a misunderstanding and we had not taken any decision on fee-waiver because we are not authorised to do so.” The topic of tuition-fee waiver came up for discussion but everyone agreed that it would then be impossible to run schools, she stressed. The association’s secretary, Francis Gomes, said: “We humbly request the bishop to reconsider his decision”, a sentiment echoed by Fr Rodney, the association’s president.
The association’s insiders felt the walkout by the CNI schools may impact its representation in the Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), where eight heads of Anglo-Indian Schools, eight heads of Association of Schools for the Indian School Certificate and three from the heads of boarding schools like Doon School are represented.
Bishop Canning, however, said that no letter of request had reached him and that he was not in favour of a reconsideration.
( With inputs from Ajanta Chakraborty)