LAHORE: Dozens of parents staged a protest demonstration against Education Minister Rana Mashhood accusing him of backtracking from his promise to bring down private school fees.
The protesters chanted slogans against the minister and private school administrations at Charing Cross. They also held a walk on The Mall. They said that they had been let down by the government and were still forced to pay exorbitant fees for their children. The protesters said that Mashhood had let them down.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Parents’ Society of Private Academics (PSPA) president Faisal Khalid Sheikh, who was also made a member of the District Regulatory Authority (DRA) tasked with regulating school fees, said that they had waited for months but nothing had been done to stop schools from raising their fees. “The education minister had made us several promises. None have been kept. Our reservations have not been addressed. The facts are not being laid before Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif,” he said.
He said that in the first meeting held with the group, the education minister had promised an audit of private schools.
“He told us that a private firm hired for this purpose will look into the expenses incurred and fees charged by the schools. Its findings will be made public. However, the government has backtracked from this promise. Now they are trying to amend the ordinance issued on regulation of private schools,” Faisal said.
He said they were opposed to the government’s decision to make the 2014 fee as the baseline. “In 2014, the fees were already too high. Fees charged in 2010 or 2011 should be made the baseline,” he said.
He said that a majority of the schools were not giving a ‘sibling discount’. “Private schools are fleecing people. It seems that the Punjab government has started supporting them,” he said.
Faisal said that even after the promulgation of the ordinance, private schools had been raising fees over various pretexts. “Some private schools that lowered tuition fees upon the promulgation of the ordinance have raised the charges under other heads,” he said.
Faisal claimed that the Education department was trying to amend the ordinance to facilitate private schools. He demanded that the chief minister take notice of the issue.
He also demanded that the promised audit be carried out and its results made public.
The protesters said that free of charge education was the right of every child, but the government seemed oblivious to it. “Private schools claim that they raise fees by 10 to 15 per cent a year. The fact is that the fees are raised every three months,” they said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2015.