Arbitrary fee hikes by private schools

In a welcome move the state government has set one week’s deadline for the private schools to make their fee details public. The development follows the surge in the complaints of the parents against the arbitrary fee hikes by these schools. These details have to be notified in two leading newspapers of the Valley. And in case any schools refuses to do so, the recognition of such a school will be withdrawn without any further notice. There are some stern directions to schools. They have been strictly forbidden from a midsession revision of fees. Similarly they can only charge admission fees once at the time of the admission of the child. The order is unprecedented. Though there have been efforts in the past to check the wilful revisions in the fee structure of the private schools, none have succeeded. The private schools have resisted being reigned in, nor have they deemed it necessary to obey the government order. Earlier, Government had formed a fee fixation  committee headed by Justice Bilal Nazki. However, Nazki later resigned after his recommendations ended up nowhere.  After remaining defunct for more than a year,  the panel was again revived and the government appointed Justice Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain as its head. But two years on, there is little that has changed. True the task before the committee is massive. There are around 7000 private schools in the state and it will be unfair to have a single fee structure for all of them. Justice Hussain has also rightly talked about the need for a legislation to take care of the problem.  His panel is working on the draft for such a legislation. But given the past record, people are justified in harbouring reservations about the eventual outcome. There is still a lot of room for the government manoeuvring. As the Director School Education’s order has underlined,  nothing stops the government for initiating administrative measures against the schools charging arbitrary fees and make some redeeming difference.

But again the people are bound to watch the new DSEK directive with some scepticism. Will the fresh attempt succeed where the previous initiatives have failed? Only time will tell. But the outcome of the past interventions should hardly detract from the significance of the fresh effort. DSEK has the power to get private schools to fall in line. He is in a position to withdraw the recognition should schools refuse to do his bidding.

Ideally, the private schools, especially the elite schools, should have taken the lead and been mindful of the situation and in a spirit of mutual empathy worked with the parents to fix a mutually agreed amount of fees. But this isn’t happening. And the government which should have taken note of this arbitrary state of affairs hasn’t acted so far. But it is time it does. More so, in a situation where private school managements have not been enough socially responsible to act on their own.



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