Private schools' body, government at loggerheads

The J&K government and the private schools’ body continue to remain at loggerheads over providing facilities to the students in private schools besides the decisions announced by the administration to compensate the financial losses.

Ice has failed to break between the two at a time when the government and the private schools are scheduled to resume offline classes for primary to class 8th students from March 8.

The physical classes have already resumed for secondary and senior secondary classes in the schools from March 1.

The issues came to fore during a news conference of the Private Schools Association J&K (PSAJK) on Friday when PSAJK President Ghulam Nabi Var said that the private schools were ready to adhere to the government norms but blamed the “half-baked” decisions taken by the authorities of creating confusion and leaving parents at the receiving end.

“Till date all the government decisions about the regulation of private schools or providing facilities to the students were not clear and were not taken to the logical conclusion due to which all the issues and grievances remain lingering,” Var said.

Referring to the plying of school buses in wake of the reopening of schools for physical classes, he said the government kept the issue lingering for the past year, creating chaos and confusion.

“We offer the government to take over the transportation wing of all private schools and provide quality and affordable transportation facilities to the students. It will be a win-win situation for the students, parents and the school managements,” the PSAJK president said.

Earlier, the private schools had decided not to ply school buses for the students.

However, Var said that the government had instructed them to use the facility for the students.

Last year in May, the School Education Department had asked the private schools to charge only tuition fee from the parents for the COVID-19 lockdown period.

It was stated that the decision about collecting transport fees from the students would be taken later.

“A year has passed and the government hasn’t taken any decision whether we (private schools) have to collect transport fees or not. Our schools remained closed since August 2019 and we didn’t receive transport fees from the parents for all these months,” the PSAJK president said. “The government should take a decision in this regard to end the confusion.”

He said otherwise no private school would be able to ply the school buses which were already running into losses.

“But in the interest of the students, we have decided to ply school buses for only next two weeks,” Var said.

He said they earlier decided to keep transport off the roads following which parents were anxious and the government too decided to discuss the issue with the private school body.

“The government had given us assurances and promises, which are yet to be implemented on the ground,” PSAJK president said.

He said the private schools cater to around half of the student population and the government should think about its survival as well.

“If this sector collapses it will tell upon the future of more than 6 lakh students which will be a disaster,” Var said.

About the government’s assurances of providing one-time assistance to private school teachers and revival of budget private schools, the PSAJK president said all such claims were nothing more than eyewash.

“Not only this, the government also shelved RTE Act guidelines for providing 25 percent free admission to poor students in private schools. We are always ready to work under the government rules but the problem is the competent authorities delay implementation of the rules on the ground,” he said.

The J&K government had earlier constituted a committee headed by the advisor of the School Education Department to put forth recommendations for economic revival of private schools.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, Administrative Secretary School Education Department B K Singh said the issue of collecting transport fee by private schools would be discussed in the next meeting of the fee fixation committee.

“The issue is in our notice and it will be discussed in the next meeting of the fee fixation committee,” said Singh, who is the member secretary of the fee fixation and regulation committee of the private schools.

“The committee constituted for economic revival of private schools held only one meeting but no decisions have been taken so far,” he said on the status of economic revival of the private schools.