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20 Mar 2017

CM remark fallout: teachers denied hike

Mita Mukherjee, TT, March 19: Several private schools have withheld the hike in teachers' pay planned from April as that would mean increasing the students' fees, which the managements are keen to avoid given chief minister Mamata Banerjee's mood.
The chief minister's recent statement in the Assembly that the government should have some control over private schools has sparked fear among the institutions that any attempt at raising the admission or tuition fees would invite her wrath.
The main aim of the proposed government control, sources said, was to put a cap on tuition and admission fees.
A large number of private English-medium schools had decided to pay a 10 per cent interim relief to teachers and non-teaching employees, on a par with their counterparts in government-aided schools, from April.
it is mandatory for every private school in the state, including the minority institutions run by Christian missionaries, to pay their teachers on a par with those in state-aided schools.
The rule even applies to those schools that do not receive any financial aid from the government.
Since the primary source of revenue for private schools is students' fees, the managements had planned to hike them from April to raise funds for the interim relief of the employees.
"We have to raise the students' fees to pay interim relief. As the situation stands, it wouldn't be wise to take such a decision. We need to know first to what extent the government is ready to allow us to increase the fees at one go before taking any decision," the principal of a private school in south Calcutta said.
"We are compelled to defer our plans to start paying the interim relief to our teachers and non-teaching employees. Our teachers will be deprived of their dues but our hands are tied," the principal of another school said.
Officials of several schools, all of whom refused to be named for obvious reasons, told Metro that the monthly tuition fees would have to be increased by Rs 300-600 in order to pay the 10 per cent interim relief to the teachers and other employees.
The state government had started giving the interim relief from July 2016. Some Anglo-Indian and church-run schools had implemented the relief from the same month.
But most private schools, mainly the non-Christian institutions, had kept the hike in abeyance as they could not revise the students' fees in the middle of the session last year.
The schools had planned to increase the students' fees and start paying the interim relief to the employees simultaneously, from April 2017. The relief would have been paid with retrospective effect from July last year.
Most private schools now routinely increase the monthly tuition fee by Rs 50-100 every year. But to pay the interim relief on a par with government schools, the hike in the monthly fee has to be at least Rs 300.
"If the hike in the monthly fee is kept at the usual level, we cannot pay the interim relief with retrospective effect from July 2016. The revised salary will then take effect from April, at a considerable loss to the teachers," a senior official of a prominent private school said.
A handful of schools have decided to pay the relief but not with retrospective effect. "Ideally, we should have paid the relief with effect from July 2016. But since we cannot risk increasing the monthly fee by more for than Rs 250 now, we have decided to pay the revised salary with effect from April," the principal of an ICSE school for boys said. The school has raised the tuition fee from Rs 1,750 to Rs 2,000 a month from April.
"If the school does not pay the relief with retrospective effect from July 2016, teachers stand to lose between Rs 18,000 and Rs 54,000," a leader of a body of private school teachers said.
A number of schools had witnessed a series of protests by parents between 2010 and 2012, when the managements had to implement the Fifth Pay Commission award and increase the salaries of their employees.
A girls' school run by Christian missionaries in Kidderpore had been vandalised after the authorities increased the monthly tuition fee by Rs 300 to raise funds for implementing the pay panel's recommendations.
Most private schools fear such protests over hike in fees would become more common following the chief minister's statement in the Assembly.

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