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April 19, 2019

After dealing with private schools: SC will pay attention to govt schools, says CJP

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April 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday stressed the need for giving much attention to the education sector, especially, in the public sector educational institutions by imparting quality education to the youths.

The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, said that at the instance they are looking at the affairs in private educational institutions, and after that they will also question the government over performance in public sector schools. He said the state of affairs in public sector schools is very poor. He said the government will have to answer for not giving much attention to educational institutions in the public sector, saying the government should divert the maximum funds to the education sector.

The chief justice was heading a three-member bench of the apex court hearing a case regarding increase in fees by the private educational institutions. The chief justice said that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had also stressed on the education sector; hence, if we ignore this important sector we cannot make progress.

During the course of hearing, Salman Talibuddin, Advocate General, Sindh, while commencing his arguments, clarified about the fees structure as well as fee schedule saying the management of a school submits a fee structure to the Regulatory Authority and upon submission, the inspection team makes a visit to the school for inspection.

“Once the inspection team is satisfied of the required facilities of a school then it makes a recommendation for the fee structure, and once the regulator approves the fee structure then it becomes a fee schedule,” Salman Talibuddin said.

He said that the fee schedule comprises all the details, including admission fee, security as well as tuition fee, adding that the school administration is required to file an application for its registration for a period of three years and after the expiry of the period, an application is filed for the renewal as well.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen, another member of the bench, asked the law officer as to whether the entire exercise has to be made again at the time of renewal to which the AG Sindh replied in affirmative.

Salman Talibuddin, while referring to the five percent increase in fees, said that it is subject to the approval of the government.

The law officer contended that the demand of private schools for more than five percent increase is unjustified as he said that they are earning millions of rupees at the time of admission process. Elaborating this, he submitted that at the time of admission, they earn millions of rupees while issuing admission forms adding that whether students get admitted or not, the management earns millions for admission forms.

“In such condition, if the owners of private schools demand more than five percent increase, it is unjustified,” the Sindh AG contend. He further said there are famous schools even charging parents for providing sport facilities like establishing playgrounds, which is not justified as they are required to do so at their own.

“In view of security situation when the government asks the management of private schools for erecting high walls around their institution, they ask for funds despite the fact that they are earning in millions and having sufficient resources,” Salman Talibuddin contended. He, however, said that there are schools runningunder the trust with meagre resources can approach the authority for financial help which the government after verifying their condition extends help.

The chief justice observed that they are not against anyone for making reasonable and legal profit, but the basic question is as to whether the five percent increase is a hindrance in the profit process.

“Looking at the audit reports, it seems that the profit of private schools are increasing,” the chief justice remarked. Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that the management of private schools have made a huge profit while imparting education. Citing audit report, Justice Ahsen said that the City School made annual profit of 36 percent, Grammar School 26 percent while Beacon House has made a profit of Rs1.4 billion per year.

The chief justice observed that there are two basic questions one, he said whether a restriction can be imposed under Article 18 of the constitution and if yes then it is to determine whether these restrictions are reasonable or not.

Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, along with Rashid Hanif advocate, told the court that Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) was established with an aim of registering, regulating and promoting privately managed educational institutions in the federal capital to ensure that they follow a uniform policy.

They, however, said that the Islamabad High Court has suspended the rules of that regulatory authority. At this, the CJP said that the law can be declared null and void but not be suspended.

The law officers informed that PEIRA had filed an appeal in the IHC against verdict; however, it is still pending since October 2018 due to non-availability of division bench. The chief justice, however, said that soon new judges will be appointed for the Islamabad High Court.

Meanwhile, Advocate General Khyber Pukhthnkhwa (KP) Abdul Latif Yosuafzai informed the court that the provincial government has enacted two laws one, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Free Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act, 2017, and secondly, the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Public Private Schools and Regulatory Authority Act, 2017.

He, however, said that the Peshawar High Court Bar Association has challenged the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Public Private Schools and Regulatory Authority Act, 2017, before the Peshawar High Court which is still pending.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing until April 29 as Shahid Hamid one of the counsel for private school told the court that he will not be available next week as he is proceeding abroad.

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