ISLAMABAD: After a week’s dilly-dallying following the prime minister’s order not to raise school
fees this year, private institutes have finally issued notices abiding by the directives.
The issue has been a burning one for almost a month when parents of schoolchildren took to the streets to protest against the ‘undue’ fee hike.
The persistence from parents across the country, especially Islamabad, compelled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to intervene who then tasked Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training Baligur Rehman to resolve the crisis.
The fee hike raised many questions about the ability, competency and capacity of the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), responsible for public and private education sector of Islamabad.
Ministry or division?
Established in 2011, the employees and officers still remain unclear whether the authority is a division or a full-fledged ministry. Some boards inside the division carry the title ‘ministry’ while some officials call it a “division”. Moreover, the dangling sword of abolishment has always been a cause of concern for officers.
Private Educations Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) is an attached body of CADD with over 1,200 registered private institutes. Since inception, its authority and role has been questioned.
The office has yet to be established with a permanent and independent chairperson, official building and across the board transparent scrutiny of institutions which are mushrooming without rules and regulations.
Some of the educational institutes are known for charging students for library, multimedia, sports and miscellaneous things which they have never availed or are yet to avail. Similarly, no fixed capping is available that bounds the institutions to raise the fee.
Owners of private institutes tried their best to do away with the orders by releasing half page ads in different leading dailies with distorted facts and figures but parents kept pushing their case with countrywide protests.
The education minister held several meetings and announced that the fee will remain unchanged in 2015 with complete overhaul and revision of PEIRA rules, regulations.
CADD Minister Barrister Usman Ibrahim distanced himself from the matter, as he would do in case of complaints about public schools and colleges.
Small private schools held a separate press conference to voice their concern regarding the government’s decision. They were of the view that raising Rs500 to Rs1,000 should be exempted from the fee reduction or adjustment orders.
Meanwhile, the capital is also abuzz with rumours that Member National Assembly Tariq Fazal Chaudhary is vying to replace Ibrahim as options are being considered due to the latter’s performance. Chaudhary was active during the fee hike fiasco and flanked the education minister in the last presser on the issue.
After getting out of the race for chairperson of the Federal Public Service Commission, ex-corps commander Quetta Lieutenant General (retired) Nasir Khan Janjua is expected to be appointed as the new rector of the National University of Science and Technology as the incumbent varsity rector, a former three-star general as well, is set to retire from the post.
PhD, MPhil programmes
Similarly, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has restarted taking legal action against institutes being run without the mandatory non-objection certificates (NOCs). Currently, there are 169 degree-awarding institutions in the country that hold such a status. Besides, HEC has also warned about three dozen institutes to stop further intake in MPhil and PhD programmes due to lack of faculty, proper facilities or prescribed criteria which was not being followed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2015.