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Derecognition shock

Friday, May 27, 2011
By Suyash Padate & Pallavi Smart

The future of 1,600 students studying at St. Mary’s High School (SSC section), Mazgaon, is in a limbo following it’s de-recognition on May 24 by the deputy director of education, state government. Part of the 148-year-old premier educational institution comprising an ICSE section as well, the order was received yesterday and is the result of an inquiry conducted by the education department into allegations of collection of capitation fees, lack of toilets and adequate drinking water and other technical grounds. 

The de-recognition notice was sent to the school after it reportedly failed to provide appropriate explanations for all the shortcomings discovered during the investigation conducted under the enquiry. The school authorities have strongly denied all the charges and have, in a press note issued also yesterday said that the management of the school has been harassed by vested interests with political connections. According to the statement issued to the media by the school authorities, “The Order is, on the face of it, unsustainable. The management is in the process of preferring an Appeal for recalling the ex-parte order of de-recognition passed by the Dy. Director of Education.” 

It all started four years ago when a member from the PTA (Parents Teachers Association) complained to the education department about excess PTA meeting fees, prohibited by the government. Nana Saheb Kute Patil, then a parent and a member of PTA who had filed the complaint said, “According to the government regulations, maximum fees for PTA can be Rs.5. But this school was charging more than Rs.150. The complaint was registered with the school education department and the then South Mumbai Education Inspector Suman Shinde conducted enquiry on the school. Following the enquiry several other ill-doings of the school were exposed gradually.”

“It was due to the enquiry and all the RTIs (Right To Information) that I filed, that it was revealed that the SSC section building, ground plus four, does not have toilets or drinking water facility on any floor. Later, the school was found charging huge capitation fees, the collection of which amounted to more than Rs 1.45 crore. The case was then sent to Economic Offences Wing (EOW), which did not call it a criminal offence. After the letter from EOW, the education department started the hearings into the matter, however none of the school representatives were ever present,” alleged Kute Patil.

The school authorities, in a statement from principal Fr. Baptist Pinto, has said, “The harassment unleashed is with a preconceived and pre-calculated motive.  The SSC Section is aided by the State.  However, since the academic year 2004, not single ‘naya paise’ has been released by the Education Department towards non-salary grants.  Entire non-salary expenditure has been borne by the management through its own resources.”

According to the information provided by the school authorities, Fr. Baptist, a Jesuit priest and former Principal of St. Xavier’s School, Mumbai (for ten years) was transferred by the Society of Jesus to St. Mary’s High School (SSC). The Education Department refused to grant approval and has kept it pending till today.  The Education Department nominated the senior most teacher as Acting Principal.  This was deliberately done with a motive to destablise the school.

Fr. Baptist continued, “The Education Department, without notice to the School, lodged a complaint with the Economic Offence Wing of the Mumbai Police alleging that the School had illegally collected huge amounts and misappropriated it. The Economic Offences Wing, after detailed investigations, has concluded that the complaint is false and has closed the case. The Dy. Director of Education, however, on the very same charge with some other frivolous and flimsy grounds and without considering a detailed explanation supported by documentary evidence, has by an ex-parte order dated May 24, 2011, de-recognised St. Mary’s High School (SSC).  The Order has been deliberately passed close to re-opening to jeopardize a recognized, private and minority educational institution of repute.”  

The management has appealed to the parents and students in particular not to be perturbed and extend their support to the management at this critical juncture. 

When contacted, the School Education Minister, Rajendra Darda said, “There were a number of complaints against the school. The inquiry was ordered and after the probe the Director of Education took the decision to derecognise the school.

As for the children, according to the Right to Education Act, no school can deny admission to any student within the vicinity on any ground. In this case, it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the admission for each and every student of that school. No student will suffer due to this order and all of them will be accommodated in other schools in the area. The school can appeal to the government against the order of the director,” he added further..

Some of the charges levelled against St. Mary’s School, SSC...

1)    Lacks infrastructure –benches not in proper condition and no toilets in any of the buildings for students as well as for teachers.
2)    Monetary misappropriation namely: Collection of capitation fees, accepting donations for KG class admissions, raising teachers benefit funds by accepting money from students and their parents. Total misappropriation is Rs. 1, 45, 70, 881. (The EOW has ruled there is no criminal misappropriation, according to the school)
3)    Improper supervision and planning of educational activity.
4)    Illegal transfers and promotions and appointment of teachers. Allegations over issues of approval regarding transfer of principals and teachers.
5)    Inadequate drinking water facilities.
6)    Allegations of manipulation of results in semester exams in 2008-09 by illegally raising marks of students. 
7)    Crisis of credibility stemming from inefficiency of the school management

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