KARACHI: Sindh Secretary Education on Wednesday admitted that there were flaws in the education system of the province and his department had the nominal authority to control and regulate the affairs of the educational institutions in private sector.
He was making submissions before a division bench of the Sindh High Court comprising Justices Maqbool Baqar and Muhammad Shafi Siddiqui, which was hearing a petition filed by Pakistan Institute of Labour Research and Education (PILER) and Aurat Foundation seeking directions to the provincial government to ensure 100 per cent free education to all children of school going age.
“They (private institutions) ought to have self-regulatory mechanism as it (province) is not a jungle and they should be accountable,” said Secretary Education, Siddiq Memon, while agreeing to the observations of the bench that fee structure of these institutions should also be regulated and monitored.
Appearing on a court notice, he also agreed to the remarks of the bench about the actions which unlawfully deprive students of the chance to appear in examinations. Such decisions are conveyed to them “at the eleventh hour.”
“They (students) were told at the eleventh hour that their exam forms will not be forwarded. This was done with mala fide intentions,” the court said referring to some instances and asked that how much control the education department has over these education institutions.
Additional Advocate General Sindh, Adnan Karim Memon also conceded that education department has its control only over schools in public /government sector.
Faisal Siddiqui advocate, counsel for the petitioners, said that there was no control over private schools. They charge substantial amounts under different pretexts and if parents object, the students are made to suffer, he said, suggesting that there should be some regulations in this regard. The Secretary Education also revealed that he had informally taken up the issue with the officials of the British Council about the institutions affiliated with them. “This is a wholesome issue and I seek assistance from the court. Please constitute a committee,” he said, and hastened to add that a judge can head this committee. The court at this stage also observed that some schools in Karachi also have franchises of foreign eateries.
The bench later put off further proceedings till May 17, asking the petitioners’ counsel and Secretary Education to come up with the suggestions and names of people to be included in these committees.
PILER and Aurat Foundation filed the petition submitting that education is a constitutional right recognized under Article 9 of the Constitution. This right is also recognized under Article 37(b), of the Principles of Policies.
Petitioners submitted that after the 18th Amendment, provincial governments are bound to ensure that all children between the ages of five and sixteen years get free education. The failure of the respondent education department to provide free and compulsory education to all children is unconstitutional. It is a fundamental right and not a discretionary right, which the government cannot refuse to provide, they submitted.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2012.