Quick buck: Private schools profiting from security threats?

Schools raise fees by over 20%.

Fawad Ali January 19, 2015
A security guard stands alert at the entrance of a school in Islamabad which has added barbed fencing on it walls. PHOTO: ONLINE

RAWALPINDI: Lack of government control and the alleged connivance of the Education Department have allowed private schools to unilaterally increase fees on the pretext of ‘security arrangements’.

In recent days, around 3,000 private schools in Rawalpindi District have hiked up fees by 20 to 30 per cent.

A senior Education Department officer said that the department had no control over private sector educational institutes.

The officer added that private sector institutes were often ‘above the law’ and could not be held answerable as ministers, bureaucrats and even an incumbent provincial education secretary were running chains of private schools.

He said that the private schools owners had not been taking interest in meetings being held to review security arrangements.

“They were not even attending meetings held at the commissioner’s office until the government threatened to cancel the registration of schools failing to put proper security arrangements in place,” the officer said.

When contacted, Private Schools Association Rawalpindi chapter President Ibrar Ahmad said a press release had been issued stating private schools would not increase fees to bear the additional expenses incurred due to increased security arrangements.

“The fees were increased by schools, mostly in urban areas, which are facing financial problems,” he said.

On the additional costs, Ahmad said that price of an ordinary weapon was over Rs18,000, while the government had made it binding on all institutes to keep at least two security guards.

“It is not possible for all institutes to absorb the additional cost of metal detectors, walkthrough gates, CCTV cameras, and increasing the height of boundary walls, due to which most private schools have increased their fees,” he said.

Even private schools with high enrolment and strong financial standing have increased fees since the government issued notices asking them to enhance security.

Ahmad complained that when bigger institutes increased fees, no one took notice, but everyone demanded action after smaller schools facing financial problems took a similar step.

On the other hand, federal government schools have reportedly increased fees by Rs35 per student to meet security expenses.

During a meeting at the commissioner’s office, representatives of federal government schools told the Rawalpindi commissioner about their financial problems to justify the increase.

The move was criticized by parents, who demanded that the education department take notice of the decision.

“They should also share the burden as the threats are equal for children, teachers and the owners of the schools,” commented Mukhtar Ahmad, a parent.

Rawalpindi Education EDO Qazi Zahoorul Haq could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2015.


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