For the last two years now, the Fee Fixation and Regulation Committee (FFRC) for the private schools has issued a number of circulars to private schools regarding collection of annual fees from the parents of the school children.
The debate over collection of annual fees by schools started after the closure of the educational institutions in March last year.
Besides FFRC, the school education department also issued repeated circular instructions to the private schools to refrain from collecting annual fees from the students saying the school facilities were not used by students since March 2020.
But all these circulars did not see any implementation on ground as the majority of the schools collected annual fees from the students in violation of the government order.
The issue again came to light after the Chairperson FFRC Justice (retd) Muzaffar Hussain Attar directed the management of the private schools to strictly adhere to the circular issued by the government in respect of charging annual fee.
The instructions were issued after the parents complained to the committee that the schools were misleading the parents saying that FFRC has allowed collection of annual fees for the previous academic session and current academic session.
The chairman of the committee in the order stated that the schools continue to remain closed due to Covid19 pandemic and the institutions have to abide by the orders of the Government regarding collection of annual fees from students.
The school education department in May 2020 directed the private schools to charge only tuition fees from the students while the annual fees will be collected by the school management on a pro-rata basis when the schools reopen.
In September this year the FFRC, while reviewing the fee structure, barred the private schools from charging annual fees from the students. The committee maintained that children who were already studying in the school had made huge financial contributions by paying a one-time admission fee and annual fee for years together.
The committee also said that the payment of parents towards schools in terms of annual fees resulted in development of infrastructure of the school.
The committee said these students cannot be further burdened by asking them to pay the same annual fees which will be fixed in respect of fresh entrants.
The committee also stated that charging annual fees from the students should be subject to facilities provided to the students and actual expenditure of the schools on relevant overheads.
But the schools are arbitrarily charging the annual fees from the school children in violation of government orders which has irked the parents over these years.
In the latest order, the FFRC has stated that the government order issued in May last year was still in force and will continue to remain in force till the time schools reopen for students.
The committee has clarified that besides regulating the tuition fees of the schools, it also fixes annual fees for the schools but such fixation does not mean the school authorities were authorized to collect the annual fees.
“The FFRC orders in respect of annual fees will take effect as and when schools reopen,” the order reads.
But the fact remains that these repeated circulars do not deter private schools from charging the annual fees from the students despite holding online classes for them.
The parents have been complaining against schools from the past two years for charging annual fees but the role of government has remained confined to only issuing circulars which do not see any implementation on ground. The government should either take action against the erring schools for violating government orders or allow schools to collect the annual fees. Amid the pandemic situation the mandate of the government should not remain confined to only issuing circular instructions but action should be taken on ground.
Besides annual fees, some of the schools are also violating government orders regarding charging transport fees from the students. The government has not allowed any of the schools to charge the transport fee from the students for the covid19 lockdown period. But a few days ago a reputed school in Budgam issued a diktat to the parents asking them to pay 50 percent transport fee from April 2020 to December 2020 and also from April 2021 this to November 2021. Such diktat is clearly in violation of government orders, unfortunately the authorities are acting as mute spectators. The government should move beyond issuing circular and act on ground.