RAWALPINDI: Two cantonment boards in Rawalpindi have directed around 350 private schools operating in residential areas to vacate their premises and shift their establishments into the commercial areas in compliance with the law.
Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB) Spokesperson Qaiser Mehmood told the media that in light of orders from the Supreme Court (SC), they had issued notices to all schools within the jurisdiction of the cantonments — RCB and the Chaklala Cantonment (CCB) — which were operating in residential areas to vacate their current premises and move to areas marked as commercial.
On the other hand, private schools say they want alternative land to be allotted in the commercial areas before they shift.
Mehmood said that per the orders of the apex court, schools will have three years to shift their establishments from residential to commercial areas.
The process, thus, would be completed in three phases. In the first phase, notices have been issued to all the schools. In the second phase, the second and third notices will be issued, in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Should the schools fail to comply with the notices and directions of the top court, Mehmood said that the lease of the properties in which these schools are operation would be cancelled.
“Schools built on private land would be demolished,” he said while adding that owners of all such schools should take the notices as a reminder to start searching for alternate sites to shift the schools.
Meanwhile, the All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Association General Secretary Irfan Muzaffar Kiyani acknowledged that the top court had indeed ordered to shift private schools from residential areas in a suo moto case.
However, he pointed out that their association intended to file a review petition against the apex court’s orders, as was their right.
Moreover, he said that if the top court wants them to move, then they should be provided with alternate sites for the purpose.
There are a large number of private schools in every residential area of the two cantonments of Rawalpindi, including 200 private schools in the residential areas of RCB and 150 private schools in CCB.
The schools often have similar sounding names but there is no standardised system of education or teaching at these schools, nor is there any official body which regulates them. As a result, students are charged heavy fees every month.
Due to a large number of unregulated schools, many parts of the cantonment suffer traffic jams in the morning and in the afternoon when the schools start and end.
Apart from the traffic mess, the mushroom growth of private schools creates issues of cleanliness and security, destroying the peace of residents living in these areas.
Curiously, until the top court’s orders, the cantonment boards appeared reluctant to take any action against these schools, as evidenced by the number of schools which had opened in the residential areas.