From next month or so, most schools will have new admissions in Kashmir Valley. It is here where the administration needs to act proactively in order to ensure illegal capitation fee is not sought and accepted from the parents.
For years, some schools, if not all, circumvented the government order, issued from time to time, imposing a ban on capitation fee or donation charged by them on admission. The Principal Secretary, School Education Department in the order last year had clearly said no private school or person while admitting a child shall collect any admission fee from any child or his or her parents or guardians.
The order was made under Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 and its section 13 provides for action including cancelling recognition of schools.
It is not the case that the private have been deprived of their due in lieu of education and facilities they offer. The order specifically mentioned that School Fee Fixation Committee mandated to regulate the fee structure in private schools has already ordered that private schools shall only charge tuition fee, annual fee, transport fee, voluntary special purpose fee, or any other fee.
Any other fee is by no means the capitation fees as it stands depreciated by the highest court of the country. There is a fine difference between reasonable fees and capitation fee. There is no denial that majority of the unaided institutions cannot be compelled to charge the same fees as is charged in the government institutions for the simple reason that they have to meet the cost of imparting education from their own resources and the main source can only be the fees collected from the students. However, any kind of commercialization of education should not be allowed and no reason of collecting exorbitant amount in the name of capitation fee or even other fees should be allowed.
The courts and statutory provisions of various education related laws clearly and unambiguously spell out the offence of collecting capitation fees and punishment for the same. After the government made the order, many private schools have tried to dodge it and met quite success, especially when parents are reluctant to come forward.
The capitation fee issue is not just about educational institution management. It comprises a broad ecosystem having many stakeholders. The private schools should not act as violators while parents need to come forward, without fearing a backlash, while the government shall act in the manner as would ensure the practice is curbed for all times to come. It is the right time to act in advance.