Schools charge capitation fee in various guises: NGOs

Schools seem to have now found ways to evade the Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act, 1987 and Right to Education Act 2009. They are now charging exorbitant fees under non-prescribed heads, which educational NGOs allege is capitation fees in disguise.

Schools are asking parents to pay a certain amount towards "voluntary contribution" for PTA, staff welfare, development of school or building and infrastructure fund or as education fee for the school's maintenance. Both Right to Education Act and Prohibition of Capitation Fee Act state that charging capitation fee in the form under any head not prescribed by the education department is unlawful and schools, if caught, will have to pay 10 times the amount charged.

Recently, parents of three schools complained against the management for charging exorbitant amount towards voluntary contribution for PTA welfare, staff welfare, infrastructure maintenance, activity fees, annual day function, etc.

"We have received a few complaints which we are investigating," said said N B Chavan, Deputy Director of School Education, Mumbai. "We have seen that there is a growing tendency among some institutions to gain profit through education. Stringent action will be initiated against schools if it is proved that they are charging capitation fees," he added.

There have been complaints against schools for charging huge amounts as donations. However, most parents prefer not to lodge complaints fearing a backlash. Some schools, particularly in the western suburbs, charge admission fees ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh, a security deposit of Rs 50,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh and under the head 'other fees' or 'miscellaneous fees', an additional Rs 30,000 to Rs 80,000. Ironically, there is no explanation for `other fees' and 'miscellaneous fees'.

"According to the 1987 Act, capitation fees are any amount charged over the prescribed fee amount or charged towards heads not prescribed. Schools are charging Rs 1,800-2,500 as computer fees, Rs 100-500 as `fines', etc. But all of these are capitation fees, and therefore are, illegal," Chavan added.

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