Like everything else, the current turmoil has affected the education in Valley. It is an issue that has currently assumed contentious political dimension with the government and the people divided over the resumption of schooling. But there are aspects of the issue which the government has been indifferent to. And it concerns the functioning of the thousands of private schools and their approach to the prevailing crisis. Despite being completely closed for the past three months, these schools are demanding full fees from the parents. What is more, some of them have resorted to blackmail to do so. In a cheap trick, parents are called to school to receive study material or assessment papers for their wards but the same is then made conditional on their depositing their fees on the school’s terms. And the parents who refuse to do so are sent back with an implicit threat that their wards will be failed if they refuse to fall in line.
This is a shameful conduct and it is mortifying to know that it is our educational institutions which are resorting to it, with Srinagar’s some of the elite schools showing the way. And these elite schools earn crores of rupees in fees with an audit some years ago revealing their annual surplus earnings upwards of Rs 3 crore. With private schools largely operating in a zone of no-accountability, the parents are left with no option but to succumb to this blackmail. They are taken hostage by dubiously playing on their fears for their children and released from this anxiety only when they pay ransom, the fees.
Ironically, in executing this foul trick, the private schools do not seem to violate any law or a norm, prescribed by the government. But this conduct is not only legally untenable but also morally reprehensible. In an unprecedented troubled situation where every family and every business has suffered and lost a part of their livelihood, how can private schools render themselves immune to the situation by presuming nothing has happened. And then also get away with it. Ideally, these schools, with their elite counterparts taking the lead should have 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 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.