CHENNAI: June is the time when having your ward in school might be a good enough reason for your blood pressure to hit the roof. Tuition fees, travel fees, books, bags, donations and capitations – parents have to cough up a bomb. And what’s worse, fees only keep increasing.
Parents with children in Chennai’s private schools are unanimous in stating that school expenses have been burning a bigger hole in their pockets this year. Middle-income families, in particular, are feeling the crunch the most.
Saritha, whose family income is about `18,000 a month, says that the fees, inclusive of books and stationery for her son, have hit `19,000 this year. “Last year, it was just `16,200. We have to manage to make ends meet this month with just `18,000. If the fees keep increasing at this rate every year, it will only get tougher,” she adds.
It is not any better for parents with high-paying jobs either. Vivek D, a software engineer in Cognizant Technology Solutions, points out that while he can afford to shell out `23,000 for his daughter who is in kindergarten now, he is not very sure if he can do the same in the future. “They charged `18,000 last year. Now it’s `23,000. I dread to think of the fees as the children progress to higher classes. They say it might become as high as `33, 000,” he adds.
It isn’t just the tuition fee that is making parents tighten the budget. Travel arrangements are vexing them immensely.
Parents complain that choosing travel arrangements for their children is not easy, especially after accidents caused by poor maintenance, a lack of supervision and rash driving have led to several student deaths.
“We have to be careful. Those incidents remain fresh in our memories,” says D Praseeda, mother of two school-going kids. “Often, this just means we have to pay whatever the driver asks in return for our child’s safety,” she adds.
M Veluchamy, who has three daughters, is exasperated by the high fees for bus and van facilities charged by schools.
“I have no other choice but to arrange a private transport for my daughters because I cannot afford to pay the school’s hefty charges,” he adds.
Sasi Kala, whose daughter is admitted to one of the most prominent schools, finds it more economical to use her own two-wheeler to drop her child in school.
If tuition and travel are the biggest bug-bears, books, bags and other things that parents have to buy are not short of springing surprises. “This time, the books and the uniforms cost more than last year. The cost has increased from `3,500 to `4,900. Tuition fees amount to `34,000, which is `3,000 more than what we paid last year,” she adds.
While parents say they have no other choice, but to pay the fee demanded from them, they point out that they would be happy if their children receive quality education. “After having paid so much, the least that a parent can expect is that the child gets proper attention and coaching,” says Leo Fernando.
Even as multiple committees have come and gone to fix the school fees, the duel between the parents and school managements over it is far from over. As the school reopening season has set in, some parents still find themselves in the court against the schools.
“In 2010-2011, we paid an annual fee of `8,100. This time we are paying as much as `28,000 for this academic year. Though we had taken up the issue in the court, it has not served any purpose. Now many parents have admitted students to schools with lesser fee,” says Ponraj, whose kid has been enrolled in a school in Anna Nagar
Kamal (name changed), who had enrolled his child in a minority institution, now finds himself paying around 240 per cent more fee, after the fixation of fee by the committee. He says that parents should be consulted before the schools make infrastructural investments to increase transparency in fee calculation. “The fees have gone up by 240 per cent in the last couple of years. The school says that they have invested in infrastructure. But we can’t find any available. Even if the schools are investing huge amounts on infrastructure, shouldn’t the parents be consulted before this is taken up?” he asks.
Parents complain that schools are now citing spurious costs to increase fees. These include showing one-time investments as repeat investments, introducing new kinds of funds like community development, driving up infrastructural investments, etc.
Another parent, Radhakrishnan, has filed a case against a school in Pammal for running two institutions in one name. “On paper, there is only one school, but they have two schools functioning in two areas separately with separate faculty, infrastructure etc. This has resulted in parents shelling out more as there has been no sharing of resources,” he adds.