Private school fees took the limelight in 2015 after a group of parents staged protests against school managements. The government took notice and an ordinance was promulgated.
However, some of the parents continued their protests, expressing reservations over the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotions and Regulations) (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 and what they described as lack of its enforcement.
Under the ordinance, the schools were barred from raising fees during an academic year. The ordinance required schools to return any amount charged within the academic year that was in excess of the fee charged in 2014. Furthermore, the schools were directed to register with a central authority that will process requests for any fee raises.
The authority was given the power to fix fees for private institutions after evaluating a school’s category, the number of students on its rolls and the facilities provided. At a protest rally held on December 21, the parents said that the government had backtracked from its promise of creating a mechanism to fix private school fees and categorise them according to the facilities they offered. They said that after promulgation of the ordinance, the government had done nothing to stop schools from raising fees. Some of them said that the facts were not being presented to the chief minister. Another group said that the government had assured them that there would be an audit of private schools fees and expenditures and this had not happened.
The government constituted an authority at the district level to take parents and private schools into confidence and come up with a solution. The District Regulatory Authority (DRA) held several meetings with school representatives. However, it had yet to come up with a solution accepted by the stakeholders. The government had tasked DCOs to implement the authority’ orders.
Private schools and parents were both given representation in the authority. Some of the parents who attended the meeting said that they had been informed at the onset that they were there only as observers. The Private Schools Parents Association (Punjab) A Social Media Group had come together using Facebook.
The issue of school fees was also taken up by parents in some other cities. The Lahore group is now communicating with people in other cities to come up with a strategy to resolve the matter.
Faisal Khalid Sheikh, the president of the parents’ collective, said that they wanted to create a wider network of parents to get schools to lower their fee. The issue might remain a flashpoint during 2016.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2015.