The protracted struggle to keep private schools from adding on late fee surcharges and extra miscellaneous charges to their already swollen fee structure has taken a sudden and unexpected twist.
A decree was passed by the Sindh High Court on Monday barring private schools from charging additional fees from pupils enrolled there. For parents and guardians, the injunction is just what the education sector needed: proper and timely intervention from any pillar of the state and recognition of a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. Otherwise the obscene amounts of cash extracted by private schools all in the name of education on this count or the other have hardly ever moved any state institution to action.
While the role of the court is to be appreciated in this matter as well as countless others, it is disappointing to see little or no interest in the issue of school fee add-ons which does not in the first place consider it important to speak up in favour of pupils. This is perhaps why parents of schoolchildren have had to turn to the court for assistance and relief. Shockingly, it was the provincial government that issued a notification on a five to 10 per cent hike in private school fees in the province, sparking a petition against the move. The high court has thus proposed a legal framework for increasing school fees.
Education officials in the province should have been the ones to resist private school managements and stop them from revising their fees by more than 5pc. Apart from the court, who else can be expected to uphold the rights of pupils and shield them from unjustified fee hikes? Until we can enforce a uniform fee structure for private schools and protect pupils from regular fee revisions, we will not have moved far in the sphere of education.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2018.