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April 4, 2020

School fee during lockdown: Parents seek uniform relief at federal, provincial levels

Top Story

April 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: After the announcement of Prime Minister Imran Khan regarding making policy for private schools to charge fee from students during the period of closedown of educational institutions, the parents have demanded the government to provide uniform maximum relief at federal and provincial levels.

The parents of students in elite schools in the federal capital as well as in provinces approached this correspondent on Friday and presented list of demands for ensuring relief in fee structure as these educational institutions were sending fee vouchers or some were making plans to this effect as they were busy collecting email addresses of parents. In order to justify collection of exorbitant fee, some of these elite schools have started online classes of students during the period of lockdown to present an excuse that they were providing education to their students.

Pakistan Parents Forum and other parents as individuals stated that due to coronavirus breakout, uncertain economic situation, non-existent regulatory oversight and non-implementation of Supreme Court judgment and delay (by schools) in refunding of excessive fee charged from parents from January 2017, the parents have demanded the government for 100 percent fee waiver relief for March till May 2020 and freezing fee to January 2017 levels with teachers and admin/support staff salary are to be paid on time.

They stated that relief from government to schools should be linked to placement of legal fee as determined in line with judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The parents were of the view that the government should remove education ministers in federal and provincial cabinets having direct or indirect stakes in private schools -- because it is conflict of interest as they have failed to protect public interest being representatives of the masses.

They asked for immediate issuance of ordinance by the President of Pakistan followed by a constitutional amendment by the Parliament for declaring education is not for profit like in India, UK and Scandinavian countries for safeguarding fundamental right of the children of nation and improved literacy rate.

The parents stated that schools are already collecting non-approved fee with hefty profiteering established in Auditor General report in the Supreme Court in Dec 2019. The closure of schools has led them to save over 40-45 percent operating cost that should be passed onto parents who need relief in the fee for March till May 31, 2020. The non-implementation of SC orders on freezing fee at January 2017 fee until new fee is determined and notified by PERA/registering authority.

On the other hand, the Private Schools Association is of the view that if they would not charge the fee from students then how they would be able to provide salaries to the teaching and other staff. It said there is need to devise a justified mechanism where the parents’ demands for relief should be accommodated keeping in view the lingering lockdown in the country. It said the schools should be allowed to charge certain portion of fee to meet their constant expenditures such as teachers’ salaries, rents and other affiliated incurring costs.