–Say they will challenge govts’ directives for mandatory fee reduction in courts
–Punjab govt gives one-week ultimatum to schools, Sindh govt says ready to face courts
LAHORE/KARACHI: Private schools in Punjab, Sindh and those governed by the Islamabad Capital territory on Wednesday announced they would challenge the directives for mandatory 20 per cent concession in tuition fee for April and May in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they were already suffering losses due to closure of the educational institutes till May 31.
“We will petition the court against the orders asking schools to reduce tuition fees by 20 per cent,” said Kashif Mirza, the chief of the All Pakistan Private Schools Association.
The announcements came after the two provincial governments and PIERA ordered private schools to ensure reduction in fee and provide job security to the teaching and nonteaching staff.
PUNJAB GIVES ONE-WEEK ULTIMATUM:
In Punjab, Minister for School Education Murad Raas announced on Wednesday that the provincial government was giving a one-week ultimatum to private schools to give concession for the months of April and May 2020 and issue revised challan forms to students.
Raas said that he had held a meeting with the private school owners “five or six days ago” wherein they “flat out” refused to give concession.
“However, today, we are giving them one-week time [to follow the government’s directives and] to issue revised fee challans,” he said, adding that in case of non-compliance, concerned parents can lodge a complaint with the School Education Department on a helpline which will be announced soon both on the social media and mainstream media.
“I’m asking parents not to submit fee unless you get your new challan forms,” he said, adding: “This should not be a big deal [for schools] […] we are only asking for a two-month relief.”
Though some private school systems in Punjab agreed to reduce their fee bills for April, they hinted at moving the court against the government’s order.
A circular issued by Beaconhouse School System to parents stated that the fee bill for the month of April was being issued with a 20 per cent reduction however “the school reserves the right to contest the reduced amount in accordance with the provisions of the law”.
SINDH GOVT SAYS READY TO FACE COURT:
Meanwhile, All Sindh Private Schools Association representative Haider Ali said that the association would challenge in court the Sindh government’s directive on fee reduction for two months.
The Sindh government also directed that no private school would terminate the services of the teaching and nonteaching staffers during the lockdown while the administrators were bound to pay full salaries to all staffers.
Commenting on the order, Ali said that private schools in the province were already charging a reduced rate. “Private schools in Sindh teach approximately 3.3 million students. They are already charging a reduced fee, they cannot reduce it more,” he said. “We will challenge the government order that stipulates schools offer a 20% reduction in fees,” he said.
Sindh Minister for Education and Labour Saeed Ghani admitted that the government did not take the management of private schools into confidence before taking the decision to ask for a reduction in school fees.
He, however, said that he is ready to meet and listen to them. “If they want to challenge this in a court of law, they have the right to do so. Government will defend itself,” said Ghani.
ICT SCHOOLS DEMAND WITHDRAWAL OF ORDER:
Private schools in Islamabad also refused to comply with the government’s decision, saying they will move court against the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA).
The refusal came after the PEIRA directed the private schools working in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to reduce monthly fees for April and May. According to a notification, the decision was taken to provide relief to the parents during a nationwide lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, PEIRA clarified that those educational institutions that were charging fees less than Rs5,000 do not fall under this order.
As per earlier directions of PEIRA, no educational institution shall collect fees in advance except on a monthly basis and directed them to issue fresh challans otherwise.
It also directed that the services of all staff members working in private schools including teaching and non-teaching staff not to be terminated and staff salaries to be paid on regular basis.
The notification further stated regarding the announcement of Cambridge International on school examination in May/June 2020 and subsequent policy decisions. “The students who want to appear in CIEs upcoming examination in October/November may be permitted in accordance with CIEs policy.
However, the rest of the students may be dealt with in line with the internal policy of schools.
On the other side, the ICT Parents Association had rejected 20 percent relief in the monthly fees. The association wanted implementation of the Supreme Court verdict in that regard.
Reacting to the notification, Central President of the Private Schools Association Chaudhary Ubaid said PEIRA should take this decision back in the light of the earlier Supreme Court orders. He said that association rejected the federal and provincial governments’ decisions regarding the 20 per cent decrease in fees.
Ch. Ubaid further stated that teachers’ salaries were fixed, adding that 90 percent of private schools had rented buildings.
He said that the association rejected the PEIRA decision and will move to the court to challenge it.
He also requested the prime minister to announce an educational relief package for private schools in wake of COVID-19 pandemic.