On Sunday, Ravi Kumar’s (name changed) son received a circular detailing the fee structure for the upcoming academic year. His fees had been hiked by Rs. 5,000. Ravi, who works as a government clerk in Jammu, wanted to offer his son the kind of education that he was deprived of. So, he admitted his son to a private school in Jammu. However, he had to bear what seemed like an arbitrary surge in fees every year.
Just like Ravi, other parents that NewsClick spoke to echoed similar sentiments. “Every year the private school management hikes the fee structure by including new headers. Annual charges of private schools are so high that it is getting difficult for a common man to educate their children. On one occasion its ‘computer fee’ and its ‘transport fee’ the next time. We fail to understand the logic behind this move by private schools,” said Ravi. Parents like Ravi have been stretching their budget to provide good education to their children while compromising on their household budget.
After the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s advisory to shut down schools till March 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic, many schools have promoted junior school students to the next class based on their previous performance. Usually, the admission process starts in mid- April but due to schools being closed, most private schools in Jammu are sending parents the annual fee structure earlier than usual.
Distressed parents told NewsClick that the fee structure given to them by private schools are unmanageable. Parents want to register their protest by coming out on the streets but are unable to do so due to fears around the novel coronavirus.
The hike in fees by private schools in Jammu is nothing new. In 2019, parents whose children were studying at private schools, had protested against an exorbitant fee hike. Parents had alleged that the students were forced to buy stationary, books and uniforms from select vendors allegedly fixed by the school administration. As a result, Jammu and Kashmir Governor’s administration had issued notices to 19 private schools in Jammu saying that the schools were “violating the orders of the Fee Fixation Committee regarding fee structure and the orders of the High Court as well.”
Fee Fixation Committee:
As fee hike complaints against private schools pour in, the Fee Fixation Committee (FFC) is defunct. The FFC became non-functional after the completion of the earlier Chairman’s two-year term on July 28, 2019. It has been nine months and the administration has not appointed a new Chairman as yet.
The committee was formed in 2015 on the direction of the Supreme Court in the wake of complaints against private schools fleecing parents. The mandate of the commission was to regularize the fee structure in private schools. With around 5,000 private schools in Jammu and Kashmir, there is no regulatory body to keep a check on arbitrary fee hikes.
“With Fee Fixation committee lying defunct, private schools are fleecing parents with impunity. We are left with no other choice but to pay the fees even if that means compromising with our household budget and daily lives,” said a parent.