Kashmiri parents’ tryst with private schools: ‘We started saving even before our kid was born’

Srinagar: As much affordable the government schools are, parents from Jammu and Kashmir spend hefty amounts to admit their children in private educational institutions to ‘ensure that they get the best education’. Apart from the backbreaking process of admissions, the money deposited as ‘admission fee’ is not even tax-free.

With passing years, the government taxes are only increasing in the valley. From eateries to earnings to the money people spend, everything comes with a tax. “For what we have, we can pay the taxes. But for what we already spent, how can they ask for tax?” asks a parent Tawheed Ahmad who recently got his kin admitted in a reputed private school in Srinagar.

After a baby is born, one looks at its face and thinks about the number of classes he/she has to study. People wait for the baby to start talking so that they can send them to a playschool where they can learn alphabets, rhymes, words, numbers, puzzles, games, colours and how to talk in English. This time is ‘crucial’ for the child as it will decide whether the child can get admitted in a reputed school or not.

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“We tried to teach our child at home but in a play school, they learn discipline and exactly the things that will be asked in their interview,” says Ahmad.

Ahmad had sent his ward to a playschool at the age of 3. “He would still be sleeping when we would wake him up. He would cry a lot before leaving for the playschool. He would sleep for hours after coming back. This is the necessity of time,” he explains adding that he had to pay around Rs. 2000 per month as the fees of the playschool for 2 years.

As soon as the news about the availability of school forms came, Ahmad and his wife like thousands of other parents in Kashmir ran to schools in the middle of the night, lining in a queue to grab a form.

“We went to many schools. I sent my brother to some places, me and my wife went to Tyndale Biscoe School. It was around 3 in the morning. There were already 3-4 parents waiting outside the school. We waited and waited. We had taken Namkeen Chai with us. We had breakfast on the road and finally the gate opened,” he recalls.

After submitting the form, he says, the family would be after the child, asking him all sorts of questions like, “What is your name, What is your father’s name? What is your mother’s name? Etc.”

All’s well that ends well. The child gets admitted into the school. But that is not the end of the story. For admission in a government school, at the pre-Nursery level, one has to pay nothing.

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For admissions in any reputed private school, one has to pay: Rs 25000 at Legends School, Rs 50000 at World Foundation School, Rs 85000 at Green Valley Educational Institute, Rs 80 to 75 thousand at Tyndale Biscoe School and Burhall School; Rs 1 Lakh 5 thousand (Minus Rs 9000/ Rs 6000 Annual Fees) at Doon International School, Rs 50000 at World Foundation School, Rs 93000 at Delhi Public School and around Rs One Lakh at GD Goenka.

“We had started saving even before he was born. But, even that is somehow not enough as we have to pay taxes for the amount of money we pay as admission fees. While paying the taxes on our earnings, we can only show the receipt of the tuition fees,” says Tawheed.

“It has been going on for years. This is exploitation. First, the schools suck our blood and then the government,” he adds.

A Chartered Accountant from the valley says, “We as CA’s do not go into the reasoning part of the laws. It is the forte of the lawmakers who draft these laws. I think only the tuition fee is considered as the admission fees is usually hefty. If they, exempt the admission fees, their tax revenue will go down. Also, they frame the policies considering who can and cannot pay taxes.”

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