As the new academic session commences in schools, the voice goes louder against private schools for fleecing parents besides resorting to other unfair trade practices.
For the past two years, a debate has been going on over regulation of private schools by the government as the institutions are accused of collecting hefty tuition fees besides other charges from the parents for the Covid-19 lockdown period.
The parents mostly complain against the top notch school for collecting all types of fees in violation of government orders. Under the guise of it, all private schools across the Valley are weighed in the same scale. I have been continuously highlighting the plight of parents who are in a way harassed by some top notch private schools. The schools are forcing the parents to clear the fees other than tuition fees in gross violation of the government orders. But there is another side of the story as well. All the schools do not have the policies and do not have the same approach towards the parents. The fact is that the situation is not the same with all the categories of the private schools. The locally managed and budget schools are at the verge of closure owing to the financial crunch faced by these schools during the last two years.
The main reason for this is the denial by the parents, particularly those working in the government sector, to clear the dues. The schools have an outstanding worth crores as the parents have not cleared their dues citing that physical classes were conducted during the lockdown period of play the victim of financial facing losses during the covid-19 lockdown period.
Ironically, most of the parents who are the defaulters in the schools are government employees who receive their salary every month irrespective of whatever the situation prevails in the Valley. But the same parents deny tuition fees to the schools not to talk of the other fees demanded by these institutions. Any parent who runs a small business or works as a laborer can claim financial losses due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic but the parents working in the government sector do not have any right to deny fees to the private schools.
But the parents whose kids are studying in locally managed or budget schools have started a new trend for the past two years now. The parents, mostly those working in the government sector, do not clear the tuition fees every month. At the time of annual examinations, the schools start playing different tactics to collect the fees from the parents. The schools either bar the students from appearing in Term-II examination or deny admit card of the Board examination to the students. Instead of clearing the dues, the parents make hue and cry and try to tarnish the image of these schools by playing victimhood. Unfortunately, not only the media but the society also gets carried away and we only pay heed to one side of the story. We never wake up our consciousness and try to listen to the other part of the story as well.
Adamant to clear the dues, the parents change the school of their kids and keep the outstanding amount of the previous school unpaid. The child starts his studies in a new school leaving the former school in quandary. The students are not asked to produce the discharge certificate by the new schools as the parents claim that their kid was entitled to get admission under Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009.
The question is we as a society come to the rescue of the parents but at the same time we forget that these private schools, be it a top notch school or a budget or economic schools, are also an asset for the society. We as a society while finding relief for the parents should also think about the survival of the schools as well. The most important point in this is that we should never generalize the whole issue on the basis of a genuine complaint received against any particular schools. We should always treat these institutions as part of the society instead of disowning them which will ultimately result in their downfall. At the end of the day, these budget schools will be forced to shut their operations. Recently, while going through the balance sheet of a private school in north Kashmir, I was surprised to see that the school has an outstanding of more than Rs 52 lakhs on account of tuition fees with the parents. Most of the parents including those working in the government sector have not cleared the fees from April 2020.
There are dozens of such schools which are under huge financial crises on account of outstanding tuition fees and are at the verge of closure. But no one has come for their rescue at all. Even the government has turned a blind eye towards it. In November last year the J&K government constituted a high level committee for the revival of the private educational institutions in J&K Union Territory (UT). Headed by the advisor in-charge of School Education and Higher Education Department as its Chairman the committee was entrusted to examine in detail, problems confronted by private educational institutions in J&K UT on account of suspension of academic activities owing to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. But the inordinate delay by the government to implement the decision for economic revival of private schools has resulted in closure of more than 200 budget schools. Other locally managed schools are also at the verge of closure as the government shelved the process of economic revival of these schools under which the government had planned to compensate the losses faced by these schools in wake of the prolonged closure of these institutions since the outbreak of covid-19.
While the government has not taken any concrete decision about the economic revival of these schools, the parents have equally contributed to the economic losses of these institutions. Any government employee who is a parent in a private school has no right to keep the monthly tuition fee unpaid in the school because he is entitled for child allowance of Rs 27000 each from the government per year for the first two kids for their studies from first primary to class 12th. So the parent gets Rs 2250 each for his first two kids to complete their studies till class 12th. A budget school charges Rs 1000 to Rs 2000 per month for a student and the government pays Rs 2250 to the government employee. But still the parent is adamant to pay the fees to the school.
If the government cannot frame a draft for the economic revival of the private schools, it should issue strict instructions to the government employees to clear the tuition fee of kids in the respective private schools. Let us come forward to save these institutions from getting shut forever. These schools have contributed a lot in imparting education to many generations in towns, villages and other far off areas as well. Let us not be so careless as to lose these assets. Let good sense prevail.