LAHORE: A large number of people, including parents, their children and members of civil society protested against ‘illegal’ fee hike by private schools, claiming that the quality of education was deteriorating in the so-called elite private schools in the country. The Parents Action Committee (PAC) and Civil Society Network organised the protest on Human Rights Day because education is a basic human right.
The protesters were of the view that education was a basic human right and private schools were depriving many citizens of their basic right by increasing fee. “The private schools have no empathy for parents or children and even disregard the law of the land. They are openly flouting the fee regulation law as well as the orders of the Lahore High Court,” said a protester while talking to The Express Tribune.
The protesters chanted slogans against the fee hike and the government for not being able to implement the orders and taking private schools to task. They added that they would not pay the excessive fee to private schools and raised the slogan “No fee till low fee”. They said that their primary objective was to highlight inaccessibility of affordable and quality education. They added that their demand was for strict and sustainable measures by the Punjab government against private schools. They alleged that the schools had raised the fee between 20% to 30%, which was illegal.
Another protester said that the Lahore High Court had also issued an order to revert the fee as per law. “Despite the orders, parents had received increased fee slips. Some schools have sent different fee for children of the same class, asking for an increased fee from some unsuspecting parents, while slightly decreasing for others.”
Speaking on the occasion, Civil Society Network President Abdullah Malik strongly condemned the fee hike by private school management. “We are the voice of every Pakistani parent. As per the Constitution of Pakistan, free and quality education is the basic and constitutional right of every child,” he said.
PAC President Muhammad Ayub said that due to the unavailability of quality educational institutes, parents had no other option but to send their children to these ‘unreasonably expensive’ private schools.
Parents’ 10 demands
The parents laid out 10 demands which included, ‘illegal’ fee rise by private schools be reverted with an immediate effect, as per the government policy, 10% underprivileged children should be provided free of cost education in private schools, selected members of PAC be involved in all major decisions made by private schools management, definition and implementation of maximum fee capping as per class to be ensured, sibling discount of 50% to be provided to the second child and onwards for the same family, audit to be carried out by all educational institutes entities, groups by government regulatory authorities, any legal order and policy issued by the government for private educational institutes should be applied to all private educational institutes, all irrelevant columns to be removed from fee challan, such as a discount column, the school should not bind parents to purchase uniforms, books and stationery from pre-defined shops or school counters, the Punjab government should take appropriate measures to improve quality of education in government schools so that private schools could be used as a substitutes by parents.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2017.