In the past few days, I have seen a large number of people, including parents, their children and members of civil society protesting against fee hike by private schools. I went through the comments and status messages on social media and found that one of their major concerns was the fee these schools collect during summer vacations. They blamed private schools for having no empathy for parents or children. According to the protestors, education is a basic human right and by raising fees, the private schools are depriving many from this basic human right.
I’m a social activist and I’ve always raised my voice for the oppressed but I see so many things flawed in these demands. First of all, providing education to every citizen is the responsibility of government, which is elected by the votes of these people. If they want free education, they have an option to move their children to government schools where they don’t have to pay any fee at all. But they know that the quality of education they want for their child is only being provided in these private schools that are neither funded nor subsidized by the government in any way. They pay taxes like every sector. If the rate of increase in fee is to be reduced then inflation must be reduced by the government and the government must also exempt this sector from taxation. If the government cannot provide education to the tax payers then why even tax education.
Secondly, the quality all these parents demand comes from money. Though I agree that government has a regulatory role but unduly capping fee below the inflation doesn’t seem logical. If the government cannot control inflation then how can it expect people to provide goods and services below inflationary levels. Some schools have increased their fee beyond the reasonable norm of 10-12% but such schools are very few. To rope all of the schools in the guise of exploitation is not justified. Schools have to pay their employees; pay rents, need money for maintenance, to keep the labs and all the equipment up to date, and the list goes on… Parents don’t want to pay fees during summer vacations but they don’t think about the staff. What will the teachers do during the vacations? Should they starve and should the property owners be left without rent? It sounds selfish and unfair to not pay them during the summer vacations when even they are busy planning their next terms, making question papers, etc.
The sad truth is that we live in a capitalist society and we have to pay for the services we get. Businesses need to remain profitable to continue providing services and to survive. Yes, I agree that schooling and education has been commercialized but like it or not, this is the only way forward. A private enterprise needs to be incentivized to continue providing services and producing goods. People pay taxes to the government to provide basic services promised in the constitution but to expect it from private enterprise for free isn’t sensible. There is a price tag for education (that has sadly become a luxury many may never afford) but instead of forcing the farmer to feed for free, the state that collects taxes for this purpose should be compelled to provide basic services. The protests and demonization of a sector may end up being disastrous. Even if the government elected by the people had worked for the people in the last 5 years, there would have been quality schools where children would have progressed by now at least till the 3rd Grade. But instead of pressuring the governments to provide rightful quality education, the energies of parents were spent on agitation, protest, sit ins etc. You spend so much on a lot of useless things, cut those expenses if you have to but don’t make the teachers suffer and don’t let your child miss out on the shot they may have at a decent future. The demand should be directed at the state not the private enterprise that has stepped in to fill a void created by the state.