- PAC chairman Kashif Ismael says schools harassing children over fee issue
LAHORE: Though the state is obligated to provide free education to all children in the country as per the constitution, yet parents are planning to launch a countrywide protest movement against owners of the private schools as they have increased their monthly fee heavily by more than five percent in violation of the rules, court orders and without permission from the Education Department.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Parents Action Committee (PAC) Chairman Kashif Ismael said that the leading private schools increased fee ranging from 10 percent to 25 percent in August in violation of the rules. “The other private schools are just following them,” he said, adding that the Ravi Campus management of the City School System was harassing his children and other students who were not complying with their orders.
“They are harassing our children and keep them in libraries instead of classrooms. No one is there is check them,” he said. “The previous government of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) did nothing for the parents. We are planning talks with the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders over the issue.” He said that there was no check on private schools and the authorities concerned do not take action against them.
“The owners of these schools are so powerful that they are least bothered about court orders and the regulator – the Education Department. They increase their fee whatever they want and wish. No one can ask them. Their fees vary from campus to campus and from city to city,” he said. According to him, the parents of the students held protest demonstration outside the Johar Town Campus of a leading chain of private schools on Friday.
The parents held protests in Rawalpindi also on Friday. “We are planning a countrywide protest and will occupy the Liberty roundabout in Lahore very soon to press the government to take action against these schools.” He said that had the government implemented 10-points of the Lahore High Court bench, the situation would have been better.
In 2018, the Lahore High Court directed the provincial government to notify “The Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2014” to ensure enforcement of the fundamental right of education and also a responsibility of private schools for free education. The bench in its verdict said that for any increase, the relevant private schools shall submit supportive material justifying the increases with the authority concerned within 30 days.
The Punjab Private Education Institute Act 2016 allowed five to eight per cent annual increase in fee but the schools had been increasing their fee beyond this limit and put an unbearable financial burden on the parents who also moved the Supreme Court to order the government to enforce the relevant law on the private schools.
The Supreme Court in June 2018 too took up the matter and Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed, “Why don’t we direct the government to take over all private schools charging heavily?” He noted that it was a dereliction of duty on the part of the government that they had never given attention to the education system as a result of which children of poor family could not study in private schools charging exorbitantly.
“Last year my kids’ school fee increased 14 percent and from the current month it increased by 20 percent. Its LACAS Gulberg Campus. This is one of the change with this govt. All most all schools have increased the fee by 15 to 25 percent which is baldy hurting parents,” a parent said. “Many parents complaining about the issue and are planning to go to the court/protest against unfair hike. But this happens every year and the result is always the same. So either if the Chief Justice takes suo moto or if all parents do not pay fee to these private schools mafia, I guess nothing will happen.”
Asim Ali, the father of another student, said that the previous government did not take action against private schools which increase their fees each year on one pretext or other or without any reason. “Quality education is the right of the children and parents want so but it is costing them a lot,” he said. Asim claimed that his son’s school increased A–level fee by 35 percent.
All Pakistan Private Schools Federation President Kashif Mirza said that the members of his association were following the court orders and they had not raised the fees. “Elite schools are 0.5 percent in our association and they usually deal in O and A levels. Their session starts from September and they raise the fee from this month. Otherwise, all other private schools raise the fee from April since their session starts from this month,” he said.
“If elite schools have raised fee in violation of the court orders on their own, the strict action should be taken against them. In that scenario, we will support parents and will not defend hike in fee,” Kashif concluded. On the other hand, General Manager Operations of the City School Systems Ayaz Ali rejected allegations of arbitrary fee hike by the parents. “We have not increased fees. We are following the court orders in letter and spirit. There is no complaint from parents in this regard,” he said.
Addressing the first meeting after taking charge as Minister for School Education Dr Murad Rass held the previous government and former education minister responsible for all the failures of the education sector in Punjab. He said that he would be spending Rs 100 billion on schools without any hesitation if the need arises.
However, he did not respond to queries of Pakistan Today about the yjer hike in fees by the private schools. Schools Education Secretary Ambreen Raza and Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood did not respond to phone calls and messages despite repeated attempts to get their point of view.