Parents of children enrolled in private schools continue to be fleeced notwithstanding the state government’s frequent noises about a rational fee structure. Mushrooming of private schools in the Valley, and the government’s failure to maintain a check over their operations has given rise to major concerns as some school managements have taken to charging Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 as annual fees. The state has responded merely by making announcements about its intentions, but failed to intervene effectively to curb mercenary practices.
Fees charged by some private schools in the Valley are on par with fees charged by the most expensive schools in New Delhi. Several such schools in the Valley are run directly or indirectly by the kith and kin of top leaders in the state’s ruling coalition who have put obstacles in the government’s move to bring in legislation for regulating and prescribing their fee structure.
Private schools in the “medium” category, which earlier had a more-or-less reasonable fee structure, too have jumped into the race and begun charging Rs 25,000 as admission fee in addition to Rs 2500 to Rs 3000 as monthly tuition dues. The nexus between politicians and the managements of private schools is one of the reasons the government is tightlipped over the issue and an unwilling to heed growing public resentment.
The government’s anxiety to privatize healthcare as well as education is understandable in light of the enormous windfalls this entails for the ruling classes. This is one of the reasons the state school system has been allowed to degrade to the extent of generating public mistrust and lack of confidence. It is unlikely that in Jammu and Kashmir’s fraught atmosphere, where politics is permanently and fatally latched to “complex questions,” anyone will call it to account, in upcoming elections, about the consequent colossal waste of public funds spent on maintaining a non-performing system.
The government has no choice but to enhance the standards of the state-run school structure and turn it into a reliable and dependable medium of education for the children of ordinary, hardworking Kashmiris. The licensing and functioning of private schools must be subjected to controls of the severest strictness, their mushrooming discouraged, their accounts audited with regularity, teaching standards and facilities evaluated by experts, and inviolable fee structures enforced with a heavy hand.