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Exclusive: Steep Fee Hikes & Stinking Toilets in Ryan Schools 

Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.

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(In this multi-part series, The Quint tries to explore the explosion of the privately-run Ryan ‘International’ Schools over the past few decades, and what it means for quality of education, safety of children, fair play by the administration and other factors. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.)

In interviews with former students, their parents and long threads of grave complaints against various branches, The Quint came across a gaping difference between the steady increase in school fees and the steadily declining facilities.

In the previous part of this series on Ryan International Schools, we brought to light the corporal punishment and a pattern of undertrained and underpaid teachers akin to these schools across the country. But if the teachers are not paid well then why are numerous complaints of arbitrary fee hikes and crippling infrastructure in branches rampant across India?

In Ryan International School, Yelahanka, Bangalore, for instance, fees have been hiked 3-4 times, by 10% each time, in the last five years.

Till last year, I was paying Rs 16,000 per quarter, this year it touches Rs 20,000. The most drastic increase is in the ‘Bus Fee’. We live within one kilometer of the school and yet my daughter’s bus fee has been increased from Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,600.
Aman Singh, father of student at Ryan International School, Faridabad
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Arbitrary Hikes In School Fees, Admission ‘Donations’ & Other Charges

Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A frustrated mother vents her frustration over the extra money parents are constantly required to shell out at Ryan.
(Photo: The Quint)

Two students, currently in Ryan International School, Navi Mumbai and Kundalahalli, told The Quint they were asked to pay regularly for theatre festivals and ‘graduation day’, for NCC costumes, even for books written by the Director and for charity drives.

Additionally, former students from three branches of Ryan International Schools told The Quint that they were asked to buy all books, uniforms and stationery from the school at almost twice the market rate.

This violates state government resolutions issued in 1994 and 2003, which states that parents cannot be compelled to buy uniforms from a specific shop and the fabric for uniforms should be freely available in the market. It also says parents should not be forced to buy books, stationery, uniforms, diaries, socks, ties, etc from the school.

In fact, in February 2007, parents filed a complaints against RIS, Ludhiana for fraudulently collecting around Rs 4 crore from them by way of donations, besides around Rs 10 crore as tuition and admission fee.

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The Unending Transport Issues

From a bus conductor being arresting for the alleged murder of class 2 student Pradyumn, to last year, when a class 3 student, Jiya, died when her own school van hit her after dropping her on the wrong side of the road, Transport has always been a thorn in Ryan group’s side as far as controversies go.

Complaint forums and sources of The Quint have made it clear: for the pace at which Ryan schools are expanding, they don’t have the logistics or the training ability for support staff to ferry around, carefully and safely, almost 3,00,000 students.

I had raised concerns with the school principal Peeya Sharma (RIS sector 40, Gurgaon). Based on my complaint, the school (questioned) the staff of the bus. Today, when I was dropping my kid to the bus, the driver was threatening us. The conductor of the bus was also drunk and said (he was) the relative of (some) Sukhbir Kataria from Gurgaon.
A worried parent’s complaint on the behaviour of bus staff of Ryan International School, Sector 40, Gurgaon, in 2016
Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A complaint filed by a parent who spotted a Ryan school bus speeding through traffic last year in Feb 2016.
(Photo Courtesy: Consumer Complaints)

There are frequent complaints of not having enough buses, rash driving, rude and uncooperative bus staff, and sudden changes in bus schedules without telling parents, including a case of a bus attendant in the Kundalahalli branch snatching a little girl’s lunchbox, threatening to throw her out of the bus if she ate. Can it get any more scary for a parent to leave their children in unsafe environs?

Yes, it can, apparently.

Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A grave complaint made by a parent of a student from Ryan International School, Kundalahalli, Bangalore.
(Photo: The Quint)

The parent who filed the complaint does not wish to be named to protect the identity of her daughter, but said the school Principal was already aware of similar complaints made earlier by bus staff and was working on a project for video surveillance and GPRS tracking on the buses. But even after a month, she saw no progress. To that end, she writes:

I am sure you can imagine how difficult it was for me to send my daughter to school during this period. Imagine you are working in an office not knowing whether you will get your daughter unharmed in the evening. I suffered many sleepless nights. But this was not sufficient for the principal to speed up the process. In fact, on insisting to show some progress he even said that buses were optional and we can arrange our own transport if we were too worried. He also said that things cannot be speeded up as the decision about GPRS, etc, is made by people higher in the hierarchy (whom I cannot access).

She pursued him for a bit longer, but later gave up and shifted her daughter to another school.

All this has been happening alongside complaints from parents about steep hikes in ‘Transportation Fees’ every year. A parent of a student currently studying in class 3 at Ryan International School, Noida told The Quint that the bus fees for them had increased by Rs 400 this year, despite the school being situated less than 5 kilometers from their home and their child not managing a seat on the bus on the way to school, due to overcrowding.

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The State of the ‘International’ Infrastructure

There are an overwhelming number of complaints about stinky, unusable washrooms and no clean drinking water in many of the branches of the ‘sparkling’ Ryan schools such as Sector 40 in Gurgaon, Kundalahalli in Bangalore, Nerul in Navi Mumbai and the long list goes on.

With fees ranging anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 75,000 per student, per quarter, a lack of basic facilities and the inertia with which such complaints are handled exposes the downside of Ryan group’s expansion at such a fast pace.

Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A complaint filed by a group of parents of Ryan school, Sec 40 Gurgaon students in September 2016.
(Photo: The Quint)

The above complaint, filed in 2016 by a group of concerned parents on Consumer Complaint forum, goes on: “Condition of classrooms is also not good. Furniture is not polished and walls have not been painted for a long time. In front of all school gates water gathers in the rainy season because of poor drainage... At the time of dispersal, kids walk through the water, and their shoes and socks get wet. Sometimes small kids fall in water and get hurt because they are unaware of pot holes.”

During snacks and lunch breaks, (there is) no water. Toilets stink. Explanation by supervisor: How can school provide water for so many children? Ayyammas are busy.
An excerpt from Cynthia Lobo’s review of Ryan International, Kundalahalli

In September 2017, another complaint was filed about the Sanpada, Mumbai branch, alleging that water purifiers and lifts are not maintained, girls stay away from the toilet because “it's always stinking” and classes are not cleaned regularly either.

Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A group of Ryan students’ parents filed a formal complaint, with pictures as proof, about the lack of basic facilities in Ryan International School, Sector 40, Gurgaon in 2015.
(Photo Courtesy: Complaint Board)
Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A review by a parent of a student in Ryan International School, Chembur, Mumbai.
(Photo: The Quint)
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Issues with Transfer Certificates, Refunds and Board Affiliations

Administrative sluggishness and chaos seems abound in the various Ryan schools of the country as the largest concentration of complaints on consumer forums and review boards is always delayed or there’s a refusal in providing transfer certificates, refunding deposits, returning original documents, etc.

Complaints of crumbling infrastructure, fee hikes & rowdy bus staff plague Ryan International Schools across India.
A parent’s experience of dealing with Ryan schools “easy transfer” model for parents with transferrable jobs.
(Photo: The Quint)

The Ryan Group is proud of its ‘multi-board’ status, with schools teaching ICSE, CBSE, IB and other board-affiliated curriculum. But without a well-trained faculty and administration, this “flexibility” often leads to confusion, hurting childrens’ studies. For instance, in 2008, the books for Ryan International School, Nerul and Sanpada, had the same books even though students were following two different boards.

Similarly, St Xavier’s School in Raipur, which is also owned by the Ryan chain of schools, left the future of its students in a lurch over board affiliation.

My daughter was studying in St Xavier’s, Raipur (ICSE) since 3rd grade. After class 10, a lot of the parents wanted shift their children to a CBSE-affiliated school. But the Xavier’s administration promised to make a separate section for CBSE students from 11th grade onwards. Almost all parents agreed and didn’t pull their children out. A separate section was created, but with the same ICSE teachers now poorly teaching a CBSE curriculum! They could not even set internal exam papers; they came from Ryan school. Because of this 80% of the section failed. My daughter lost a year and had to repeat 11th in a new school.
Alok Jain, Father of former student of St Xavier’s, Raipur, also run by the same Ryan International Group of Institutions (RIGI)

Were there good reviews of the school too? Of course, there were plenty, especially for the schools in swanky localities like Vasant Kunj, Vasant Vihar and Faridabad. But when three children have died and countless others injured, beaten or sabotaged by way of the quality of their education or safety, it’s time to pay attention to the complaints and feedback more carefully.

The Quint’s calls and a detailed questionnaire to the corporate office of the Ryan Group on these issues went unanswered.

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