THE incumbent Punjab government while coming in power four years back had embarked upon a public welfare plan of establishing a much-needed regulatory authority for private schools.
However despite passage of almost four years, the said regulatory authority is yet to be established. This exposes how strong is the mafia involved in private sector education as since then, like before, it has been quite successful in protecting its interests, obviously with connivance of those at the helm.
In absence of regulatory body, private schools are free to determine their fee structure, imposing various kinds of funds on monthly/regular basis as well as charging hefty admission fees and making purchase of books, stationery items and uniforms as mandatory from prescribed shops. Besides, abrupt increase in fee is another regular nightmare for parents whose children are enrolled in private schools.
Over the years the situation has gone from bad to worse, nonetheless. It has been causing concern among the stakeholders but the incumbent government like the previous governments has been making just tall claims as evident from its “efforts” in this regard.
The incumbent government in Punjab seemed serious as a couple of years ago a special committee, constituted by none other than Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif himself, had proposed setting up of an autonomous body to regulate the affairs of private sector schools. However despite the fact the committee recommended more than 50 per cent representation to private sector in the proposed autonomous body, nothing came out of the same afterwards.
Earlier in January this year the Punjab government through a massive advertisement campaign invited feedback of stakeholders, including students, their parents and teachers, for the establishment of a proposed education commission to regulate working of private educational institutions.
But once again nothing happened afterwards and anything official to control the unbridled working of private schools is still awaited.
The stakeholders question as to why the Punjab chief minister had formed a committee four years back when the government could not dare to actually regulate working of private schools.
They also argue that the Punjab government instead of working for a select group of people through its various “education-friendly” initiatives like distribution of laptops and establishment of Daanish schools, etc should go for initiatives that matter to all.
Recently the Punjab government has started working to introduce legislation with regard to implementation of Article 25-A of the Constitution which makes free and compulsory schooling a fundamental right. The Article 25-A was inserted in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment a couple of years back thus it is evident how “swift” is the Punjab government on this matter too.
Sources privy to the developments have said that the Punjab government now plans to introduce legislation with regard to establishment of regulatory body for private schools together with legislation for Article 25-A. According to them, there might be a single legislation covering both.
Nonetheless, stakeholders have once again demanded the Punjab government not to further delay the much-awaited and much-needed regulatory body for private schools and save them from being fleeced in the name of education.