Srinagar: Over the years, Kashmir has witnessed a mushroom growth of preparatory schools which are yet to be regulated by the competent authorities.
No regulations have been framed by the School Education Department to regulate the functioning of these toddler schools.
With no regulation from the competent authorities, no protocols are maintained for establishment of schools for toddlers.
Though some of the proprietors have setup specially-designed buildings to run the pre-school facility for the kids, the majority of playschools are operating in two to three rooms of residential houses.
“Any vacant building, be it a residential house or any other concrete structure, is converted into a play school,” an official said.
In absence of regulations from the School Education Department, the management of playschools charge a whopping amount of admission fee besides the monthly fee, leaving parents at the receiving end.
A top official in the civil secretariat said that outside J&K, the respective governments have set up certain guidelines which need to be implemented to ensure these preparatory schools remain functional.
“Outside J&K, the preparatory schools have to keep one teacher and one caregiver for every 20 children and should provide sanitised toilets with soap, running water with towels for easy access to both normal and disabled children,” the official said.
The schools have to maintain records pertaining to the enrolment as well as attendance along with the fees paid by the parents.
“In other states, the management of preparatory schools is barred from charging the capitation fee and their accounts are annually audited. Contrary to this, the parents are charged a donation-cum-admission fee by the preparatory schools. The amount goes beyond Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000,” the official said.
Besides the capitation fee, on an average, each kid is charged an amount of Rs 1500 to Rs 2500 per month by the pre-school.
With no check from the School Education Department, the establishment of preparatory schools in Kashmir is seen as an easy way to make money.
“For the past many years, the overcharging by these pre-schools has gone unnoticed as parents cannot approach any competent authority regulating functioning of these schools,” said Muhammad Iqbal, a parent from Baramulla.
This year the issue came to the fore after the schools charged donations worth Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 in March, days before the second wave of Covid-19 started across Kashmir.
“The management had promised to refund the donation if the schools were again closed by the government within 15 days. The schools were closed days after I paid the donation to a play school in Baramulla but the management is yet to refund my money,” the parent said.
The parents like Iqbal are running from pillar to post to get the money back but the management of playschools is using delaying tactics.
“Recently, I approached the management of a pre-school in Baramulla to get the money back. Instead of giving a refund, the management head behaved arrogantly and refused to pay back the money,” said Muhammad Zuhaib, a parent.
The kids have not attended a single class since their admission in the playschools.
“We don’t know who to approach with our complaint and get our grievance addressed. No government department directly regulates their functioning,” Zuhaib said.
Principal Secretary School Education Department, Bishwajit Kumar Singh told Greater Kashmir that the regulations for pre-primary classes and play schools are in pipeline and would be enforced from October.
“We are preparing regulations and guidelines which will cover these pre-primary schools and kindergarten sections of schools,” he said.
Singh said that the regulations would be formulated in line with the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which regulates the pre-primary classes.
“The guidelines will be inserted in the School Education Act to regulate the playschools,” he said. “The fee structure of pre-primary schools and other facilities provided to the students will be regulated by the government.”