Earlier this week, the Private Schools Association of Jammu and Kashmir (PSAJK) issued ‘directions’ to all of its member schools to cap any fee hike at a maximum of 10 per cent.
The body said it had issued the statement while taking ‘action on complaints received by a number of parents regarding arbitrary hike in fee by certain schools’. It further said the condition will be ‘subject to new directions of the Fee Fixation Committee which is currently headless’. “The Jammu Kashmir Fee Fixation Committee (JKFFC) has been headless since the last three months and this has led to utter confusion everywhere.
Some schools have been getting signals to increase the fee and they are doing the same. Others are waiting,” said a spokesperson of the PSAJK. “In the absence of a clear cut directive from the FFC or any other government agency, schools feel they have got the green signal to increase fees according to their own norms. They too are under stress which is adding to the situation,” it added. Even as the JKFFC is currently headless, it does not mean that any private body can issue such ‘directions’ to schools on its own.
The PSAJK had stoked a similar controversy last year as well after it issued a ‘rate card’ for transport charges. The rate card had created an uproar as parents then complained that the same was issued without any consultations and that the PSAJK has no right to fix rates on its own.
Despite clear orders from the concerned authorities that the schools cannot fix fares on its own, the PSAJK statement not only fixed rates but also stated that it would charge 50 per cent fare during vacations and other off periods as well.
The only relief that the parents got initially was an order from the Court of Additional Special Mobile Magistrate (Traffic) Srinagar. It had directed the President, Srinagar Van Drivers Association, Sheikh Bagh near Biscoe School Srinagar not to increase the transportation charges of the school students till further orders.
However, the fee committee had later intervened and allowed transporters to hike fees by 12 per cent. The PSAJK has also stated that the schools were ‘in dire need of finances’. For the past few years, schools have not hiked fees and their demand for an increase may be valid. However, the schools have to approach the concerned governmental authorities in this regard.
True, the schools and van operators have a right to make profits but fee hike decisions cannot be arbitrary. From reducing the monthly fee in a couple of private schools to banning admission fees, the FFC, last headed by Justice (retired) Muzaffar Hussain Attar, had come up with landmark judgements in the past. It is hoped that the government expedites the process of appointing the new chairman of the committee so that issues facing the private schools are looked into. It is further hoped that the appointment is made before the winter break ends to avoid fleecing of parents by some schools.