Hyderabad: Telangana high court on Wednesday directed the government to formulate a policy for the regulation of school fees in private unaided schools within six weeks.

The state government has also been directed to report to the court once the fee regulation policy is formulated.

Chief Justice expressed dismay over the government's dilly-dallying tactics. He gave the government six weeks to make a final decision and inform the court accordingly.

In 2016, Hyderabad School Parents' Association (HSPA) filed a PIL in the High Court against the massive hike of fees in private schools. They submitted the balance sheets of some of these educational institutions pointing out the huge profits.

"We have faith in the judiciary. But we doubt if the government will act upon the order. Most of the time, the government acts on court orders that are of interest to them," says Venkat Sainath, who filed a petition in September 2021 demanding a private school fee regulation policy.

HSPA members had cited the example of the Andhra Pradesh government that had issued an order in August 2021 fixing the fees for three academic years from 2021-24 for Nursery to 10th standard of all private unaided schools in the state.

"Nothing can be commented about the efficacy of this order unless the government details the action plan about how they will regulate the private school fees," says Ashish Naredi, another member of HSPA.

He also explained how in a similar order, the high court had directed the state government to come up with a decision in one month in March 2020. "So many chief justices have changed over the years since this problem was raised in courts. But we just don't know when justice will be done," adds Ashish.

What went wrong with G.O. 46

Telangana government had passed G.O 46 in April 2020 directing that private unaided schools in the state not to increase any kind of fees during the academic year 2020-21 and to collect only tuition fees on monthly basis till further orders. Non-compliance with the order will result in cancellation of school recognition, revoking the No Objection Certificate already granted for affiliation to other boards, and initiation of appropriate action against the school management, the order further stated.

But lack of clarity on what comprises 'tuition fee' was a major drawback of the order. As a result, private schools started charging different kinds of fees under tuition fees like transportation fees, food charges, library fees, etc.

It is also important to note that the private schools were charging all this at a time when the students were attending online classes and not availing most of these services.

In November 2020, the members of HSPA organized a silent protest in Necklace Road against the non-implementation of G.O 46 by many private unaided schools in the state.

A fresh G.O Rt. No. 75

In June 2021, the government of Telangana brought a fresh government order restraining the schools from hiking any fees for the academic year 2021-22.

The order which was similar to G.O. 46 just had an updated academic year on it. The same ambiguity regarding the components of the tuition fee persisted.

What happened to the Thirupathi Rao Committee Report?

In 2017, the state government formed a committee to look into exorbitant fees in private schools and suggest recommendations. Former professor of Osmania University Thirupathi Rao was appointed the head of the committee. Almost three years have passed, but no report is available.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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