School fees in the past in India, both in the private and in the government run institutions used to be very negligible and no one made any profit by running these institutions. In the private, it used to be almost a social service and a philanthropic service.
But the situation changed in the past two decades. Governments pulled away from urban education and created situations for the private schools to charge heavy fees. The private schools which have been in existence for many decades having all the necessary infrastructure became the immediate beneficiaries as large sums began to flow to their coffers as fees.
The convents and all those minority cash starved educational institutions of India soon became cash rich, attracting the clever ones in their lot to get in to the managements of these institutions. The priests, the bishops and such others from other religions who have educational institutions all became more and more influential and powerful. They set the example to clever individuals to set up charitable educational societies and educational institutions under their respective banners.
Education soon have turned out to be a big profit business without any one any time to pay any taxes or to be accountable to any one! To their merriment, India soon was having a growing population of young parents whose average incomes stood several times higher than the average incomes of the rest-of-India. These higher income neo-middle class gained from the digital economy and the dollars that flowed from the West.
The digital economy parents are fortunate people in the eyes of the rest-of-India.
The elite schools and the elite home builders of the metros began to extract a good part of the money the digital employees have been making. Education and housing have become the two things through which this clandestine extraction worked!
It is only about Rs.10000/- per month, they might explain. You see, these schools do not allow the child to speak other than in English and they take so much attention to erase the child's mother tongue that had gone in to its brains by mistake! This is a very difficult task indeed and a big service that the school is doing for such a small fee! There are many more expenses for these schools and that is why they are expensive. Some of them might even become staunch supporters of these school managements!
But what happens to the huge sums they collect? What happens if you do not have the money? Indirectly, these schools are allowed to become bench markers for school education costs in India. Let us do a simple arithmetic:
How many divisions of classes one such school has? How much money such a school would be collecting for a month for all the classes up to senior secondary level?
If on the average, there are five sections of 50 students for each class, the school would be having (2+10+2)x5x50=3500 students. That is the average strength of any such school. But many of the city schools run in two shifts and have more than double that strength of students. So what is the money they collect in an year as fees? Even if you take the lower fee of Rs. 2500/- an Indian city school with 3500 children collects about 10 million rupees as annual fees. Imagine those who collect more fees and with more children!
The clever school principal and his team are professionals who know pretty well how to tackle the parents. The artificial majesty of their office and the sharp care-least attitude make all the difference!
Then they inform about the most important fee- the lump sum one time donation that they should shell out for maintaining the great school in its grandeur! And of course, the latter money has to be paid in cash and there would not be any cash receipt! After all faith is all that you need in this kind of a business!
And how much is this faith fee? Nothing much for the affluent Indian parent who draws a take home salary of more than Rs.100000/- per month! It is just peanuts ranging from Rs. 150,000 to Rs. 500,000/- only! This is the current applicable rate in the various metro, semi metro cities of India as in 2015 as I have learnt about it! If the parent has approached through any influential person, then usually a rebate up to 50% might be offered!
Will they accept a banker's cheque or a demand draft? No, no! Only cash here! But how to get cash when the government says not to do any transactions above Rs.20,000/- in cash? Will not amount to an illegal activity?
When business minded people grab the opportunity to make money through education exploiting the peoples' sentiments, it is understandable. At least, they have to create the infrastructure for the school by spending money from their pockets or by taking loans from the banks.
Many Christians do contribute money for their churches and missionary organizations to set up and run schools, educational institutions and hospitals for the benefit of the society. Sharing some thing good that they have with others is considered as a life mission of a Christian, regardless of what good is shared-material good or spiritual good! They are supposed to do both. For various reasons, this missionary zeal is often misunderstood!
But it really makes me sad when people tell about the acts of some Christian priests and nuns who resort to illegal money making in the guise of education in this nation.
Now how can they be any different when the whole society is immersed in corruption? One may ask!
What could we do? What can be done?
I do not say that we do not need good quality schools. Education is very important and every child in this country needs to get quality education. But at the same time we should not attempt dividing our society and our children into elites and non-elites, the same mistake some of our forefathers have done.
We should not expose our children to the dirty face of corruption in the same place where they are going to mold their characters. What are we going to tell our children about morality when the principal of their school is the one who takes illegal money for getting them admissions?
Why do we have principals' offices in pomp when the teachers of the same school share the same room and the same furniture with little luxury? Why some principals are paid exorbitant salaries and perks while several of their counterparts in other schools are not?
Why can't the schools publish their audited accounts to all those who are concerned with the schools, the parents and the public at large. Why can't they be accountable?
The government of India recently has proposed to bring private companies in the purview of the anti-corruption laws. Will they do it for the private educational institutions?
Will the government dare to raid some schools to find unaccounted money in cash kept in the schools just as they do for the business houses?
It is not so easy. The schools have great influential power because they are dealing with the children of influential people. By shrewd manipulation they have learnt the tricks of satisfying the powers that be. The more shrewd their management, the more influential the school!
It is getting too close to what is called crony capitalism. At least some in India are getting too happy about it!
Fortunately this crony capitalism is not the invention of India. Indians are just imitating those whom they now consider as successful in achieving material prosperity. With time all of them would realize their follies!
I am compelled to quote an optimistic warning that the authors of my favorite book of life guidance give:
"Humans should get a vision of a new and higher cultural society. Education would jump to new levels of value with the passing of the purely profit motivated system of economics. Education on earth has long been localistic, militaristic, ego-exalting and success-seeking. It must eventually become world-wide, idealistic, self-realizing and cosmic grasping. The control of education is being passed from the hands of the clergy to the hands of businessmen now. Eventually it must shift into the hands of philosophers and scientists. Teachers would eventually become free beings and real leaders. Search for wisdom would eventually become the chief motive behind all educational pursuits".
Hopefully, the present age problems of education is temporary in nature and it would refine to good in the years to come!
Note Added on 16th March 2015
At last the government of India seems initiating some actions in this context. In today's Hindustan Times Online there is this news titled: Special team probing black money set to crack down on unaccounted funds in education sector. The news reports: 'A private study by the Mumbai-based Centre for Research and Prevention of Computer Crimes in 2014 said the business of education generates Rs 48,400 crore of black money annually' (in India!).