Owing to a lack of state-level attention towards it, the private education sector mushroomed across the country and over the years it has only increased in might and number.
However, every summer, the school fee controversy assumes centre stage. Towards the end of the academic year, schools issue hefty fee circulars for the summer break. While both parents and school owners maintain their own sides of the argument, the financial burden is indeed a matter of concern.
According to a notification issued by the elementary and secondary education department, all government primary schools were closed for the summer break on May 29 while all remaining private and government schools were closed from June 13.
Government schools in specific areas will remain closed for three months while private schools will have a summer break of two and a half months.
Following complaints filed by parents, Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on June 2 directed all academic boards concerned to take action against those private schools that collect summer vacation fee in advance. He ordered licence cancellation for all such educational institutes. However, private schools have turned a deaf ear to these directives and have started collecting fees in advance for the summer vacations.
Parents were left with fewer options once vouchers were issued. Zawar Hussain, a general store owner on Warsak Road, is one of the many who come under financial duress every year.
Hussain’s two children study at Iqra School Peshawar.
“I paid Rs15,000 to the school,” he told The Express Tribune. “The advance payment is an added burden especially with Ramazan around the corner. Prices of every day foodstuff will increase in Ramazan and I will also have to save money for Eidul Fitr.”
Yousaf Shah, another parent, voiced similar concerns.
“Even the Lahore High Court has declared the practice illegal,” he said. “Yet, these schools have been given a free rein when it comes to the fee. If our children aren’t going to school for the entire summer, what is the logic behind paying tuition and transportation fees?”
Talking to The Express Tribune, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Private Education Network President Aqeel Razzaq rejected Khattak’s directives.
“The school administrations have a right to collect fees in advance,” he said.
According to Razzaq, as many as 30,000 private schools exist in K-P. “They need to collect the fees to pay salaries to staff and faculty and meet utility and tenancy costs,” he added.
Razzaq said private schools already run on tight fiscal models.
“If the government stops us from collecting summer vacation fees in advance, we will shut all schools down,” he added.
The network president said the government spends a large amount of money on schools run under its umbrella, but this has failed to generate the desired impact.
“There is a reason why parents go out of their way to enrol their children in private schools,” he said.
Razzaq suggested government should improve the condition of state-run schools before devising policies for private education institutions.
Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Peshawar Chairman Muhammad Shafi Afridi said it is unfair that parents are forced to pay fees for the summers in advance.
“We have not received any complaints as yet but if we do, we will act upon them,” he said. Afridi urged parents to register their queries and complaints with the board.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2015.