KATHMANDU, April 19: Student unions affiliated to various political parties submitted a joint memorandum to Education Minister Dhani Ram Paudel on Tuesday, demanding that the hiked fees in private schools be slashed down within three days.
“The government should immediately take action against the anarchy of the private schools,” said Nain Singh Mahar, president of Nepal Students Union (NSU), affiliated to the Nepali Congress, adding that the unions have given the government a three-day ultimatum to lower the fees. “Otherwise, we will be forced to take harder steps including strikes. We will hold a meeting tomorrow and decide this matter.”
The student unions are NSU, All Nepal National Free Students Union affiliated to CPN-UML, All Nepal National Independent Union-Revolutionary affiliated to CPN (Maoist Center), Terai Madhes Students Front affiliated to Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party, ANNISU-Sixth affiliated to Rastriya Janmorcha, Rastriya Prajantra Student Union affiliated to Rastriya Prajatantra Party, ANNFSU-Fifth and Naya Shakti Student Union.
The student unions have accused the private schools of arbitrarily hiking the fees for the new academic session which started on April 14. Flouting Supreme Court order issued five years ago not to increase fees before an interval of three years, the schools have increased the fees by up to 60 percent, violating the rules and regulations. The schools were reported to have increased their monthly fees by up to 60 percent, besides charging Rs 1,000 for admission forms and up to Rs 60,000 as re-admission fees.
The fee restructuring committee of Kathmandu district fixed a ceiling of Rs 3,675 on monthly fee. As per categories (A, B, C & D) of schools on the basis of quality, facility and infrastructures, the committee has recommended a monthly fee of Rs 1,838 to Rs 3,675 for secondary level, Rs 1,350 to 2,700 for lower secondary level and Rs 1,181 to 2,363 for primary level. However, several schools have charged fees crossing the ceiling.
There are more than 5,000 private schools across the country, including over 1,500 in the Kathmandu Valley, according to the organizations of the private schools. Some 1.5 million students are enrolled in these private schools.
Private schools should approve the new fee structures by a two-thirds majority of guardians and take permission from the Fee Restructuring Committee and the District Education Office (DEO) before hiking fees. Private schools have also forced their students to buy books, exercise books, uniforms and other stationeries from the shops they have listed just for commissions, according to the Guardians Association of Nepal. The students are not given a choice to get reasonable discounts on the stationeries.
Karna Bahadur Shahi, president of the National Private and Boarding Schools' Organization (NPABSON) said that the student unions were not well informed about the fee structures of the schools. “It's irrational and unfortunate to announce protests ignoring the problems being faced by the schools,” he said. “A task team had prepared a report about the schools' problems two months ago and submitted it to the Ministry of Education (MoE) but the latter did nothing. It's the negligence of the ministry,” he added. “There could be weaknesses from some private schools but all are not the same.”
Dr Hari Prasad Lamsal, spokesman for the MoE, quoted Minister Paudel as saying that the ministry has already formed a high level committee headed by Babu Ram Paudel, Director General of the Department of Education to look into the issues. “The committee has already started working. We have taken the issue seriously,” said Lamsal.
According to the existing rules, errant private schools can be fined up to Rs. 25,000 and their licenses, too, can be canceled.