Tame Pvt schools in Kashmir too

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That Governor’s administration has issued notices to 19 private schools for charging “exorbitant” fees and forcing parents to purchase non-prescribed books and stationery from selected vendors in Jammu is a welcome development. However, instead of confining such an action to Jammu only, the government should have initiated similar measures against the private schools in Srinagar and well. Not only in Jammu and Srinagar, but elsewhere in the state also the private schools are no different. Their sole aim and motive is to earn money and for this they keep on inventing countless novel ways, including of course forcing parents to purchase books, stationery items and even multiple sets of school and sporting uniforms besides swimming costumes and at times even the camping gear either from the schools or some selects shops and vendors.

The Directorate of School Education Jammu has given three days’ time to reply to the notices issued to the principals of 19 schools including K C Public School, Heritage School, British International School, Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School, Doon International School, Banyan International School, JK Public School, IAF School are few others. In the notices itself the Director mentions about the complaints from the parents regarding charging of exorbitant fee without the approval of competent authority, and that the parents are being forced to purchase school books (not prescribed by JKBOSE, NCERT and CBSE) and stationery items from selective vendors at very high rates.

Indeed whatever has been mentioned in the complaints against the schools in Jammu is also true for the schools in Kashmir. Here too almost all private schools including missionary schools, are indulging is brazen exploitation and economic predation of students and their parents. And what is really wondrous is that these prominent missionary schools are operating from prime government land for which they pay peanuts as license fees (some paying as paltry as Re 1 per Kanal of land per annum). The “Christian love ethic” and “kindness” have long been replaced by sheer greed. Education, even extra-curricular activities stand commercially commoditized for profits. Each of these schools not only charges exorbitant fee but also makes parents pay through nose over some or the other pretext.

Take the instance of couple of schools (name with-held) operating from the heart of Srinagar city, at a proverbial stone’s throw from the Directorate of School Education Office. Here the students, at the time of admission, have to pay upfront for the school uniform some four months prior to when the said uniform is made available by a prominent tailoring house along the Residency Road. Stationery items (needless goods included) have to be procured from a prominent stationery house in Lal Chowk. No one can get it from elsewhere, because the said vendor supplies items exclusively made for these schools with their names printed not only over the notebook covers but also on the brown POLYTHENE (mind it polythene stands banned in Kashmir!) wrappings for book and notebook covers as well as the name slips. Books are supplied by a vendor in Sonwar area of Srinagar. Book fairs are conducted by a particular vendor twice a year and children are directed to ensure that these vendors do good business. Imagine the kick-backs and commissions these schools earn from these vendors?

Then there are sports uniforms — different for different houses and departments – which are sold by the school itself, of course at very high rates. A T-shirt or a sweat-shirt available in open market for Rs 200 and Rs 300 are priced at Rs 500 and Rs 700-1000 respectively! Then, besides the academic fees which witnesses an increase of Rs 800 every year, each students pays Rs 5000-8000 at the beginning of each academic year towards some charges details of which are not made available to the parents.

This brazen profiteering and blackmail is not exclusive to these two schools only, but is more or less a general trait with every private school here. But Director of School Education Kashmir has so far not bothered to live up to his/her mandated job on this count. Now that the Director School Education Jammu has taken a lead, let’s see if it enthuses the Kashmir counterpart also to do a bit of job for which the official gets paid month after month by the state exchequer. Director or other officials in the administration may have a soft corner for these schools in case their own kids study in any of these schools, which is usually the case – and the reason for these schools escaping punitive administrative action otherwise overdue for decades – but this does not mean that these officials should allow their personal likes to overtake their duties towards the general public!

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