The unholy nexus of private schools
Various Private schools and missionary schools running in Kashmir Division, despite being under the category aided schools and established on Government land provided to them on lease, are violating the norms as well as contempt of Hon’ble Apex court’s landmark judgment under “Right to Education”, that talks about social integrations and inclusiveness by reserving 25 percent admission quota for the under privileged students.
The Hon’ble Apex Court’s judgment was a clarification on social inclusions. The Act was never stayed, but in the past private schools used to violate the law in the name that the case is pending for hearing. It is now clarified and in fact gives a double dose against any such theories. The private school establishments can’t function in a vacuum. They are responsible to people like all institutes in a democracy. The formation of Private Educational Institutes follow a due process of law, as these all private and missionary schools come into existence through the existing statues of the state, which in itself makes them accountable to public as well as to the government. If we want an inclusive society, school administration has to follow the law with letter and spirit.
Ironically these schools charge hefty sum of money from students and the condition of 25 percent Below Poverty line (BPL) quota is hardly met. When these private corporations and industries, not schools are asked to release the information about the said quota, they vehemently refute to reveal any information. That clearly shows that there is some unholy nexus, as accountability is the major factor in the debate.
Recognized by Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education, Private Schools are required by the Directorate of School Education to fulfil certain conditions before they are allowed to come into existence. It is a crystal clear form the factual matrix and statutory provisions, that Directorate of School Education possesses sufficient powers to initiate punitive action against these schools, in case the school administration fails to furnish the information. Here the question arises, why these schools don’t reveal any information on issues which are an important public concern?
The missionary schools which are running in District Srinagar, jointly occupy around 215 Kanals of prime land owned by the state. Burn hall school in Sonwar possess 32 Kanals, 8 Marlas and 56 Square feet of land while Presentation Convent School in Rajbagh occupies 95 Kanals, 4 Marlas and 57 Square feet, Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson School Sheikh Bagh possess 84 Kanals, 11 Marlas and 9 Square feet of land.
The reply to an RTI petition filled by the RTI Chairman Dr Raja Muzafar Bhat revealed that the rent paid by these schools towards the state on a yearly basis is significantly low as compared to present market value, and has not been renewed since establishment. Giving land on highly subsidized rent by the state Government, How can the managements of these schools claim that they are not public authorities? How can they refuse to provide information under Right to Information Act (RTI) to the citizens of J&K?
While the law is not vague that the state Government cannot directly interfere with system of management of theses private schools. It’s the requirement of state Government and Directorate of School Education, to see to it that these schools make their fee structure, rent details, admission enrolment under BPL categories and open merit list public. As private schools are public bodies catering to the education of masses, the denial of such information by missionary schools is also a violation of an SRO guideline under sec 9(a) of SRO-123.
Ideally, a quality education should be made available to all sections of society. But a poor man’s son or daughter cannot enroll in a Private school because the fee structure and admission fee is beyond his or her family economic capacity. These private and missionary schools claim to be working under a welfare trust, but how many BPL category students study in these schools? The unholy nexus with blue eyed persons with owners and trustees of these schools is also seen as the reason for the defiance shown by these schools in making their functioning public. The Hon’ble Governor with whole administrative machinery must look into the matter to make these schools accountable.
- Shah Khalid is a Srinagar based freelance Journalist& a member of J&K RTI Foundation and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org