Around 25,000 private schools across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) remained closed on Saturday to protest against the Education Regulatory Authority bill, 2012, which will be tabled in the K-P Assembly on December 10.
In Swat, as many as 800 primary, middle, high and higher secondary schools of the private sector were shut in protest, while all private schools of Peshawar, Mardan, Lakki Marwat, Abbotabad, Hazara, Chitral and other districts also remained closed, except Peshawar Model Schools and Colleges.
Through the bill, the provincial government said it will bring massive changes in the regulatory process of private education institutes, where, according to them, a different curriculum is being taught to students.
An 18-member committee will be formed with provincial education minister Sardar Hussain Babak as its chairman. Three members from the 18 seats will be from private schools association. The committee will also be entitled to take disciplinary action against schools and can impose a fine of up to Rs200,000 with two years of irrevocable imprisonment to the owner.
The bill has garnered extreme criticism from private school associations, but generated a mix reaction from people. Some were of the opinion that government schools instead of private schools should be streamlined.
“Private schools are providing quality education to our children. Even the children of government teachers study in private schools,” said Israrul Haq, a businessman in Mingora. Others, however, felt that private institutions charge heavy fees which not everyone can afford.
Sarwar Taj, a shopkeeper in Saddar Bazaar said: “I am very poor and cannot afford the heavy fees of private schools, but I have still admitted my children in private institutions due to incompetent staff in government schools.”
Overcome with problems, people have appealed to the teachers to end the strike and solve issues through dialogue.
Private schools associations have unanimously rejected the bill. Primary Education Institutions Management Association (PEIMA) President Yawar Naseer said that private schools associations, which comprised of 16 unions, were not consulted before the bill was drafted. “The present bill shows the government’s apathy towards education and the private sector.”
According to official data, around 50% of the children in K-P are enrolled in private schools.
When contacted, Babak said they were open to negotiations. He said the provincial government will consult all stakeholders before the bill is tabled. “This is a democratic government and everyone has a right to raise their voice.”
(With additional input from our correspondent in Swat)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2012.
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