LAHORE: As many as 17 private schools have been fined of Rs20,000 on a daily basis for violating law regarding fee increase, while hearing of heads of more schools will be held on Friday.
Parents have been up in arms against the recent fee hike by elite private schools of the city and have since launched complaints to the District Education Authority (DEA) over the increase. The DEA has been receiving complaints by parents against the fee hike and conducting in-person hearing of schools.
According to the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Ordinance 2017, schools have been allowed to increase up to 5% before the beginning of the academic year and can only increase fee by 8% after approval of the DEA. However, parents have been complaining that many schools, in defiance of the law, have been increasing fee during the current academic year.
After much protest, the Lahore DEA started proceedings against the private schools that had been accused of violating the law and during the past month conducted hearings, in which schools were given the chance to present their justification for the increase in fee.
The Lahore DEA, on Wednesday fined 17 private schools for violating the law and gave them 30 days to reimburse the overcharged fee to parents. The schools are fined Rs20,000 per day and could be fined up to Rs2 million if they failed to comply with the government orders. The schools would be fined for 30 days until they comply with the orders. The DEA received complaints against more than 40 schools in the district.
When contacted, Lahore DEA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bashir Zahid Goraya confirmed that some schools had been fined and said that no school would be allowed to violate the law. He said that more hearings would be held on Friday.
Private Schools Parents Association (PSPA) Punjab Chapter President Faisal Khalid Sheikh welcomed the development and said that some schools had rolled back the fee increase. However, he said that three big school chains were not complying with the orders. “We will continue our demand that schools should abide by the law and should not increase fee more than the prescribed amount.”
Commenting on the overall fee increase issue, Sheikh said that parents were not satisfied with the current law as there was no ground for even 5% increase in fee every year. He said that parents had approached the higher authorities, including the school education minister, to amend the law. He said that the Punjab government should take a page from the regulation in place in the capital and being implemented by the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA), which defines a fee structure for private schools rather than allowing a pre-determined increase in percentage.
According to the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Ordinance 2017, private schools charging more than or equal to Rs4,000 per month could only raise fees at the start of an academic year by 5% and that to approval from the DEA. When the issue was raised, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif formed a committee to look into the matter. The committee was headed by Punjab Additional Chief Secretary Shamail Ahmad Khawaja.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2017.