Why extra fees for SSC exams?

Amid allegations that schools charge SSC examinees more than the board-stipulated fees for signing up for the public tests, the High Court yesterday questioned the legality of extra fees taken by Gazipur School and College in Habiganj.

The court issued a suo moto rule asking the authorities concerned and the school to explain as to why the extra fees should not be declared illegal.

It also ordered the Sylhet Education Board chairman to submit a report to the court by January 4 on steps taken against the school’s principal, and the president and secretary of its managing committee for charging the students extra.

The bench of Justice Quazi Reza-Ul Hoque and Justice Mohammad Ullah came up with the rule rejecting a writ petition filed over the issue, Assistant Attorney General Titus Hillol Rema told The Daily Star.

He said the HC rejected the writ petition that challenged the legality of charging extra fees by Gazipur School and College as the same court in 2015 had issued a similar suo moto rule which was still pending with the court.

The HC, however, issued yesterday’s suo moto rule taking the issue into notice, Titus added.

Lawyer Zahir Uddin Limon, who moved the writ petition filed by Jamal Uddin Khan, guardian of a student of the school, told this newspaper that the school charged between Tk 2,550 and Tk 2,890 from each SSC examinee.

‘ANOTHER WAY OF EXTORTION’

The signing up procedure for the examinees candidates of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination 2018, to be held in February, ended on November 19.

As per the education boards, students of science group need to pay Tk 1,785 while the fee for humanities and business studies groups is Tk 1,695. Irregular students and those who had failed in one or two subjects need to pay Tk 100 more.

But in reality, many educational institutions charge several times that.

A number of parents, of children studying in Dhaka and outside the capital, alleged that they paid five to six times the actual fees and that the managing committees of the schools were behind this.

The government’s instruction, warning, action and even the High Court’s order could not stop these schools from extorting money from the students, they said.

“It’s another way of extortion,” said Mohammad Sharif, whose son is to take the SSC from a private school in Mirpur-10.

The schools, especially the non-government ones, create various excuses, including session, development, coaching, sports, and other charge to collect the money.

This practice puts many parents in financial difficulty.

Ruhul Amin, a peon of a private firm in his 50’s, was dumbfounded when he learnt that he would have to pay Tk 8,000 for each of his two daughters who are to take part in the SSC exams from Capital Model School in Pallabi.

The school also charged an additional Tk 3,300 as coaching fees, and monthly tuition fees until February 2018, he said.

“When I wanted to know from the school headmaster why he was taking so much more than the board-set fees, he asked me not to create any trouble and that I could take my children to other institutions if I wanted to.

“We’re helpless. I had to give in, fearing my children’s tests and preparations could be jeopardised,” said Ruhul.

Abu Saleh Musa, headmaster of the school, told The Daily Star that the Tk 8,000 included five months’ tuition fees (Tk 2,000 in total) and that they were not taking more than the board-set fees.

The headmaster said his students would sit for the SSC exams from another school because when the students got registered in class-IX, his school had not been approved by the board. That school is charging a little high for each student, Musa claimed.

The High Court in November 2014 issued a suo moto rule asking the government to explain why charging SSC candidates extra fees should not be declared illegal.

In January 2015, the court ordered the government to make the schools of Dhaka give back the additional money taken from the SSC examinees.

On February 3, 2016, the education ministry asked the educational institutions to return the money within seven days.

On February 29 last year, the ministry served show-cause notices on 1,209 institutions for not responding to its order.

Later, the ministry took some punitive actions, including dissolving managing committees of schools, but students were still being charged extra for SSC tests, parents said.

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