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Saturday, January 11, 2014




Arita Sarkar
Land is up for sale for Rs 2 crore or Rs 4 lakh rent for five years; but school aims to raise Rs 1.9 crore.
Several parents have alleged that the Gloria Convent High School in Byculla have been demanding Rs 10,000 per student to buy land, and have 'indirectly threatened' the students if they failed to pay up before the end of the month.

The parents on Friday submitted a complaint to the Education Department as well as the Child Rights Commission, even as the school management admitted that a payment 'request' had been made to 'save' the school.

Gloria Convent is an aided minority school, and one among more than 450 properties in the city to have been constructed on government land on a 99-year lease which expired in 2012.

The school received a notice from the Collector's office in July 2013, notifying about the expiration of the lease agreement. The school was given a couple of options: buy the land parcel for Rs 2 crore or pay the rent of Rs 4 lakh for a five-year period. The school, which has around 1,900 students on the roll call, decided to buy out the plot and held a meeting with the parents on December 16 last year, asking of Rs 10,000 from each of them.

"They never gave us anything in writing but asked us to pay up. We demanded that they show us the property papers but were asked to refer to the media reports. It is very difficult for me to pay such a large sum at one go," said a woman whose daughter studies in the eighth standard.

The parents also said that the school management never considered the option of paying the rent until they could figure out their finances. "Two crores is such an exorbitant amount. The management is not even considering the option of rent despite protests by most of us," said a parent, while another alleged that the students were being "indirectly compelled" to pay up.

"The students, especially in the 10th standard, are scared that they won't get their leaving certificates if they don't pay up. Even their farewell party has been cancelled for this reason," said one of the parents.

The school's version
The school said that it had no other way to save the institute. "We never ask students to make any other payment. Unlike other private schools, being an aided minority school, we are not able to generate enough funds from the fees, and have no other way of generating money for the plot. We had requested parents to help us in this crisis," said Sister Mary Flower, the principal. According to the school, about 60 per cent of the parents have already submitted their cheques.

The principal said the allegation that the parents were being forced to pay by the end of this month was just not true. "One of the parents approached me saying she wouldn't be able to pay such a large sum. I assured her that she could make the payment whenever she could arrange for it. We never made it compulsory... they can take their time and make the payment when they are able to," Sister Flower said.

The Child Right's Commission said it has taken cognizance of the complaint and will be sending notices to the school, while the deputy director of education, N B Chavan termed the demand as illegal.

"The government is already providing financial help to the school. It is illegal to ask parents to pay for the school plot," Chavan said.

However, a member of the Parents-Teachers Association, Salim Shaikh, said the school had "genuine reasons" to ask for money. "After meeting with the parents, we, as the PTA, had offered our help. While some parents have paid more than the amount asked for, others are in the process of paying," Shaikh said. 

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