Implement, and bring accountability

Over the years, the regulation of fee structure in private schools has remained a never debate as the government orders and circulars issued by government from time to time sees no implementation on ground.

The successive regimes have totally  failed to implement the orders and find a solution to the problems faced by the parents and the students.

But it will be wrong to only blame the private schools for all the mess, the government is equally responsible for this. Last year when covid19 pandemic was at its peak, the parents and the private school proprietors were at logger heads over the collection of fee – other than tuition fee – from the students during the lockdown period.

As the resentment was brewing among the parents against the private schools, the government intervened and issued several circulars with directions to the private schools not to charge any fee other than tuition fee from the students.

The decision obviously disappointed the school managements but most of the top notch schools in Srinagar, and of other districts, in violation of the government directions charged the tuition fee and other fee from the parents. The money charged under the category of other fee is an unresolved mystery, as majority of the schools have failed to explain why the other fee is charged from students.

Meanwhile, while majority of the schools continued to violate the government circulars, the latter continued to issue orders, one after another to pressurize the private schools. Ironically, the government couldn’t bring any respite for the parents whose kids are enrolled in the top notch schools.

While the debate over charging and not charging the fee in schools became a never ending debate, the private schools association demanded categorization of private schools under different categories.

While the government was yet to find a solution to the problems faced by the parents, a high level committee was constituted in November last year for the revival of the private educational institutions in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

The committee headed by the advisor in-charge of school education and higher education department as its Chairman was entrusted to examine in detail, problems being confronted by private educational institutions in J&K UT on account of suspension of academic activities owing to the covid19 pandemic restrictions.

The committee was advised to make appropriate recommendations in the matter within a period of 15 days. However, there was no headway in the matter as the government did not initiate any process for the revival of the private educational institutions.

It was expected that the committee recommendations will benefit the low budget private schools which were badly affected by the covid19 lockdown or the closure of schools which was ordered in August 2019. But the government committee is yet to provide any relief to these economical institutions.

Majority of budget schools faced financial losses due to the covid19 lockdown and are at the verge of closure. The staff of these schools is without salaries for many months. The revival of budget schools was a welcome move but the initiative should have been put to a logical end without any delay which would have paved the way for regulating fee structure in top notch private schools in J&K.

Even earlier in May last year, the government decided to provide one-time financial assistance to private school teachers under SDRF who were impacted due to COVID-19 lockdown. The school education department was asked to explore the possibility of providing one-time financial assistance to needy private school teachers. The decision was taken by the then J&K Lieutenant Governor (LG) G C Murmu in a meeting he chaired to review the functioning of the education sector.

But nothing was done in this regard with the result, the majority of top notch schools resorted to illegal profiteering while the economic private schools continued to be at the receiving end.

Now coming to the point, the Fee Fixation and Regulation Committee (FFRC) of private schools in J&K recently barred all JK Board and CBSE affiliated private schools in J&K to hike the fee structure of the schools during the academic session 2020-21.

The recent order issued by FFRC also revoked and rescinded the order number 01 FFC of 2019 issued in January 2019. The order had authorised the private schools to hike the fee by not more than six percent on the fee structure existing as on August 1 of 2018.

But instead of issuing new orders, the government should ensure implementation of previous orders issuing regarding the same matter. It is a fact such orders and circulars are treated as mere tissue papers by the private schools and they continue to enhance fee and over charge parents of the students. Till date no school was derecognized or no schools faced any legal action for violating the government orders.

But just to hoodwink the people, the committee and the administrative department issues circulars which see no implementation on the ground.

Just an example, the deputy commissioner last year convened a meeting with private schools of the district and issued strict instructions not to charge any capitation fee or donation at the time of new admission. The DC also instructed the schools to charge a genuine amount of annual charge in instillments from parents keeping in view the deteriorating economic conditions of the parents. But the direction and the orders were brazenly violated by the schools and charged donation from parents without providing a receipt for the same. Also, the huge amount of money was collected by schools as annual charges. No action was taken from the administration against the schools. Instead the issues confronted by the parents were hushed up only to appease the private school management.

Amid this chaos, the government instead of issuing new circulars and orders should ensure that previous orders issued in the subject are implemented in letter and spirit. The authorities should not make a mockery of its authority and competence under which they can make these schools accountable for the public good.

On the other hand, the government should also announce its decision about one time assistance to private school teachers and make the recommendation public if at all submitted by the committee which was constituted for the economic revival of private schools. We cannot always blame the private schools for all the mess. Let the government stop issuing new orders and ensure implementation of previous ones. Issuing orders won’t make any change but implementation will ensure accountability and transparency in the system.