Srinagar: The class 11th students of Delhi Public School Srinagar, and their parents have accused the school authorities of taking the “career of students hostage” over payment of monthly fee for the four month unrest period when the school remained shut.
A group of students of class 11th accompanied by their parents visited Kashmir Observer with the grievance saying that school refuses to register students for the CBSE annual exams scheduled for the month of March 2017, unless they clear entire fee, including transport charges for the four month unrest period.
The registration for the exams is done by the school itself. But the school authorities, as per complainants, have refused to register any of the students who have not paid for last three months.
The parents said they appealed the school authorities to take the exam registration fee and that they would clear dues as “genuinely applicable for the unrest period” in the coming times when situation improves in the Valley.
“But they told us to pay the full fee including the bus fee… This is injustice and tantamount to ransom,” the protesting parents said.
They appealed Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the Education Minister Naeem Akhter and also the civil society to come to their rescue.
It bears mention that DPS Srinagar's class 11 has 20 sections with around 40 students in each section.
As already reported by Kashmir Observer, the schools, mostly prominent ones, have been texting parents and students asking them to deposit fee for the months of July, August, September and October when life in the Valley remained crippled by curfew and strike.
Private schools on the other hand justify their demands by citing that they too need to pay their employees and teachers.
DPS, Budgam flashed an SMS on September 26 asking parents to help pay its staff.
“Dear parents, due to lack of funds, DPS Budgam staff have not been paid for 3 months. Please clear your pending dues (up to Sept 2016) by 6th Oct 2016. Fee can be paid through all branches of J&K Bank or by Cash/Chq at DPS Budgam Admin Block, KSERT College Complex, Humhama from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m”.
“I was shocked to see the SMS from the school authorities, I have not earned a penny from the last three months. For God sake tell me from where I will arrange the fee?” If they were not able to pay to their staff how do they expect us to generate this amount? questioned Nazir Ahmad Mir, an agreaved parent.
DPS Srinagar defended its decision by saying that they too needed to pay salaries to their teachers".
“Less than 40% of our syllabus has been completed in schools. I don't understand what services they are charging us for when we haven't attended the school in 2 months. This is unfair,” said Huda Noor a student of DPS Budgam.
"Schools are paid for the services they render not when they stay shut and it is not parents who forced their closure," Naseema Chiloo another parent said.
While one certainly cannot question school authorities for thinking about the welfare of its employees, the parents say here both sides have suffered and why one party is asked to compensate for the losses of the other.
“None of us are saying that the school should not pay their teachers, but the school authorities should also realise that we ourselves are facing financial constraints right now. Even if they need to pay their teachers, the least they can do is ask us to pay for the month of July,” Suhail Iqbal told Kashmir Observer.
Dr Riyaz Tasleem said he was surprised to see a long queue at the half opened bank when he went to pay the fee for his ward studying in Presentation Convent.
“If one school is allowed to go ahead, all other schools will follow suit and start demanding fee from the parents. While some of us may be able to pay the fee of our children in today’s tough situation, what about those who cannot? What about those parents who have not earned anything in the last two months? he lamented.
Principal Green Valley Public School, Mohammad Yousf Wani said, “We have not charged any fee from the students yet as we are waiting for the decision of other schools regarding this. We will take our decision accordingly.”
When contacted Pro Vice Chairman, DPS Srinagar, Mr Vijay Dhar refused to talk on the issue.
However, Mrs. Mumtazunnisa Soz, Vice Chairperson, DPS Budgam and wife of senior Congress leader Prof Saifuddin Soz said, “We are sorry we can’t do anything because we have to provide salary to the huge staff. She however hastened to add that "If govt. can compensate us that will be better for parents and school authorities as well’’
On September 21 the then Director School Education Dr. Shah Fasel told Kashmir Observer: “We are discussing the issue and will take all stake holders on board and will come up with a positive solution”. Four months on Govt has failed to make its stand clear on the issue.
All schools, like all other establishments in the Valley, have remained shut since July 2016.
Most people-excluding government employees- have not had any net cash inflows flowing in this period. While the schools claim that their staff have remained unpaid for this period and this constitutes a major reason for the demand of the fees, the parents(or at least, the majority of them) too have been victims.
It also needs to be stated that the schools that have demanded fees are private entities out there not for the public good or interest but for private gain. Yes, the quality of education provided and imparted by these schools might be different and of a higher order than their government counter parts but they charge a hefty sum for the provision of education.
Being private enterprises that charge a premium for education, and given their scale and size, it stands to reason that these schools must have financial buffers or what in corporate parlance is called “ retained earnings” from which they can finance expenditures and costs that these schools incurred- both of a fixed and the variable variety. The scale and size of these schools suggests that they don’t run on shoe string budgets and that demanding fees at this point in time for paying wage bills sounds like a stretch. However, hypothetically speaking, even if it may be conceded that some of these schools need finance, this is the wrong time to demand a lump sum payment for the past three months where people have been struggling financially and economically.
Private schools have options. First , they can approach the banks and solicit the banks to finance their funding gap. Given that private schools- especially prominent ones- are businesses that have a guaranteed and recurrent cash inflow, banks should not be loath in financing this gap. What makes these schools loath to approach the banks? Interest costs over the principal might constitute one answer. However, ethically and morally, it is and remains wrong to solicit money from parents than banks to save these costs.
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