School Administration Addresses Unfolding Exam Controversy at Little Flower School in Thane

School Administration Addresses Unfolding Exam Controversy at Little Flower School in Thane

A fee-related dispute at a Thane school led to exam restrictions, sparking protests. School authorities cite long-standing fee arrears, while parents express discontent

Simple VishwakarmaUpdated: Friday, January 19, 2024, 09:19 PM IST
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Little Flower High School | Special Arrangement

The authorities and the students of the Little Flower School, Thane, where parents of nearly 350 students protested on Tuesday over the exam restrictions imposed due to unpaid fees, provided contrary narratives on what led to the incident and who is accountable for it.

What happened on January 16?

Speaking to The Free Press Journal (FPJ), the school’s manager, Father John Almeida, explained, “That day's events had a backstory. Some parents haven't paid their fees for years. We've been reminding them to pay because we're a private school and not funded. We need the fees to pay the teachers' salaries.”

“We decided that those who paid the fees would take the exam, and those who hadn't could take it once they paid. Despite the extra work for us, rearranging exams and resetting papers, we agreed to do it”, Fr Almeida told the FPJ, claiming the school followed up with those parents for a long time. 

“On the day of the incident, a computer glitch caused the names of those who paid to be listed as unpaid, leading to agitation among parents. After a meeting, we assured them that we would allow their children to take the exams. However, some groups escalated the situation, and parents became angry, requiring police intervention”, he added.

Various irregularities reported by media reports, including fines for speaking in Marathi or wearing a bindi or tilak, led to heightened discontent among parents. 

A student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed that despite charging reconstruction fees, the work didn’t start for long and that irked the former students.

"Previously, there was no Rs 50 fine. It was introduced when the school started reconstruction. For instance, if you forget to wear a tie, they impose a fine of Rs 50, and the same goes for forgetting the ID card", she further added. 

She also alleged that the students weren’t allowed to go to the washroom. However, the school authorities dismissed the allegations. 

Fr Almeida said, “Rumors began circulating among the children, including false claims about not being allowed to go to the washroom and fines for wearing bindis. The school clarified that students are provided with passes for washroom breaks, and there are documented records of such incidents.”

He also dismissed the allegation that the school imposes a fine for speaking Marathi, calling it fabricated. He claimed that while the school encourages speaking English, it doesn’t discourage speaking Marathi.

When asked about the fine for speaking Marathi, another student commented, "That's how they enforce discipline, and it's a positive thing for us."

Parents give mixed reactions

Kiran Shetty, whose daughter attends the same school, expressed that there should be cooperation between the parents' committee and the school. He emphasised better communication between the school and the parents on all issues. Shetty views the recent developments as a political manoeuvre.

During the parents’ protest, Purvesh Sarnaik, president of Yuva Sena, Shiv Sena (Shinde faction), intervened, warning school trustees. Sarnaik assured parents of potential official intervention by escalating the matter to Maharashtra Education Minister Deepak Kesarkar. 

Shetty claimed that the school's decision to prevent students from taking exams appears to be a tactic to intimidate parents. He disapproves of involving political parties and obtaining assurances for parents regarding exam participation, calling it a publicity stunt.

Another parent, on the condition of anonymity, mentioned, "This school is really good when it comes to maintaining order. My elder child has graduated from here, and my other child is currently enrolled. However, it's the first time they've prevented from taking exams."

Another parent added, "Having discipline is good, but imposing fines every time is not right. Charging extra for late fees is understandable. The school has a great reputation, and what happened shouldn't have occurred."

Yet another parent shared, "We've never encountered any issues. My child underwent brain surgery, and the school was very supportive, granting concessions for leaves and such."

Delay in official response 

When asked why they haven’t issued any official statement, Fr Almeida blamed human factors. “The teachers were stressed, and the school needed to focus on calming the entire staff”, he said.

The school extended the fee payment deadline to Jan 30. Some parents haven't paid since June, and others for three to four years. The school emphasised that it never interferes with education, never troubles children, and always communicates with parents.

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