Unregulated school fee hike: Parents urge CJP to take suo motu action

Petition filed to the human rights cell of the apex court


Asma Ghani May 07, 2018
PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Parents of school-going children have urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take a suo moto notice of the unbridled hike in school fees, unjustified profits by school owners and substandard education in government schools which they claim is ruining the future of the country.

The cry comes even as parents have been protesting against the fee hikes in private educational institutions since 2015. They complained that neither have they received any relief from the government nor the schools.

School fee hike case: SHC wants govt to revisit rules regulating private schools

As a last option, they have now submitted an application, signed by about 1,500 parents of children studying both in private and public schools, to the human rights cell of the apex court to draw its attention towards the problem.

Parents whose children study in private schools in Islamabad suffer the most since a regulatory authority of private schools formed by the government has been rendered toothless by the court.

Due to the continued litigation for the last three years, parents feel they have no forum to go to for redressal of their complaints against the schools.

Parents demand end to fee hike for private schools

In their application, the parents stated that private schools have been raising their fee every year. Apart from the monthly fee — charged in advance — the students are also charged security fees and fees for amenities such as generators, multimedia, uniforms, books, and sports.

Over the past few years, parents are also asked to fork out large sums of money for school foreign trips, food festivals, and examination fees — which at times is even higher than that charged by the British Council.

In 2015 following protests from parents, the government had declared fee hikes null and void but the schools, despite getting plots from the government either free or on concessional rates, refused to accept the decision and challenged it in the court.

Parents protest against fee hike by private schools

In June 2016, the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) had introduced a fee structure for private schools under the Registration and Fee Determination Rules 2016 (RFDR) however, the rules were also challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The regulator was stopped from enforcing any rules until the court gives its verdict in the case. In the interim period, it gave a free hand to private schools to charge fees as and how they wished.

The litigation continued for two years and the decision was finally announced at the end of January this year which struck down regulatory powers of Peira, rendering the private school’s regulator toothless.

In that period, the parents claim that schools have hiked fees by as much as 45 per cent.

They said the owners using, their financial resources and influence, have managed to convince key government officials and even parliamentarians and are creating hurdles in the implementation of government laws.

They have demanded to implement the drafted Peira rules and its act to regulate fee structures. Moreover, they called on the government to impose an education emergency to make sure that private schools do not operate for a profit and ensuring that education offered at schools is within the reach of every citizen.

Moreover, they have demanded that the national task force, comprising education experts, should be constituted to oversee the education sector and that Peira should be given under the cabinet division so that it can play an autonomous and impartial role.

They further demanded an end to the representation of private school owners in academic authorities, instead of seasoned academics and parents should be included in the regulatory bodies.

The government should also raise the standard of public schools and introduce the Cambridge system of O and A Levels in government schools as well to provide an equal chance of quality education for all.

The parents have requested the apex court to hear itself the cases pending in all high courts about fee issues and announce a uniform decision for all schools.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2018.

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