LAHORE: Dozens of schoolchildren and parents protested outside the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry on Saturday demanding that the decision to vacate residential areas by private schools should be reverted.
Holding placards, protesters chanted slogans and asked the chief justice to take notice of the matter in which schools in cantonment areas across the country had been asked to vacate their premises within a month.
Most of the children at the protest wore their school uniforms and parents, teachers and employees working at private schools also participated in the protest. The protesters said that the decision would affect children the most studying in these schools. They requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take notice of the situation otherwise thousands of children would suffer.
Cantt Private School Association representative Saleem Awan said that the Cantonment Boards have asked the schools to vacate within a month. He said that private schools had been paying commercial taxes and working as per the law for years. He said that there were more than 600 schools in Lahore Cantt alone. “The closure of schools would affect the children studying there as well as teachers, who could go unemployed because of the move.”
Talking to The Express Tribune, All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association (APPSMA) Central President Kashif Adeeb Jawadani said that the case was originally in Islamabad and was between the two parties. He said that the case was decided after 15 years under the law of 1937 and ordered in favour of the petitioner. He said that the schools operating in the cantonment areas had no objection certificates (NOCs) from the relevant authorities. He said that the boards told the schools, after the decision, to vacate the residential areas without any prior intimation.
He said that the problem was between a single school and a resident, however, the decision was implemented across the 47 boards in the country.
Jawadani said that the decision would affect millions of children across the country and as schools were unable to address all the issue that came with the decision. He said that notices had been issued to schools to vacate the buildings. He said that a review petition was also filed by the school owners, however, in the meantime, millions of students, teachers, and school owners would be badly affected by the decision.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, on October 24 last year, ordered that private schools be shifted from residential areas of all cantonment areas of the country. The court’s ruling came in response to a petition seeking removal of educational institutes’ commercial activities in residential areas. The schools in Punjab received instructions, in light of the Supreme Court orders, to vacate residential areas in cantonment boards till February 25.
Earlier in February, APPSMA said that the closure of private schools in the cantonment areas would result in wastage of an education year of millions of students. They argued that there was no alternative space to relocate so many schools in the cantonment areas across the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2018.