PESHAWAR: Confusion persists at the provincial level about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s directives about withdrawal of increase in fees of private schools, as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is yet to issue a notification in line with the premier orders.
After the 18th Amendment, education has become a provincial subject. The prime minister’s directives are applied to the institutions registered with the federal government. So far none of the provincial governments could notify withdrawal of increase in private schools’ fee in light of the prime minister’s orders.
After a series of protests in Islamabad and elsewhere in the country by infuriated parents, those in the provincial metropolis also started complaining about hike in fee. The parents in the province complained that the private schools have raised fees manifold.
“Not only monthly charges have been increased several times during the past few years, but the schools are also collecting hefty amount in the name of annual admission fee and security charges,” said Sabir Aman, an annoyed parent.
Taking notice of the parents complaints, different tiers of the provincial administration came into action and started consulting different stakeholders.
The district administration was seen more active in calling meetings and issuing directives. The education minister also called a meeting of the parents and other stakeholders. The secretary education went for a separate meeting to discuss the issue. None of the meetings came up with concrete decisions.
The district administration’s meeting proved to be a complete failure. Deputy Commissioner Riaz Mehsud, who was supposed to chair the meeting, failed to reach the venue in time. It provided an excuse to the school owners to boycott the meeting.
The district administration officials, however, met parents and Education Department high-ups. They pledged to make standard operation procedures (SoP) and a committee to monitor different issues concerning private education sector.
Education Minister Mohammad Atif Khan during his meeting with parents renewed his pledge to make legislation about private schools. He said a regulatory authority would be regulated to deal with the issue of fee-hike and putting under discipline the private educational institutions.
A suggestion came from head of the incumbent regulatory authority and chairman Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Peshawar, Dr Mohammad Shafi. He called for formulation of a new regulatory authority and categorization of all the private institutions.
Talking to The News, Dr Shafi said the elite schools were the least bothered to follow the guidelines of the provincial government and the regulatory bodies. Most of these schools are managed from Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. The administrations of these schools here don’t have the power to deal with policy matters, he said.
He said that they have categorized the private schools into five categories. “We can define fee for the private school, but we can’t have uniformed fee for all of them,” he said.
According to a rough estimate, the monthly charges in 80 to 85 percent in the province are below Rs 2000. Some 10 to 15 percent are charging the students between Rs 2000 to Rs 4000, while only 1 percent or even below schools – the elite one’s – are charging the students for Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000.
The local big chains of private schools like Peshawar Model School, Forward Public School, Frontier Model, Frontier Children Academy, Qurtaba School and other schools of their standards are charging the students between Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000. The other schools with lower standards are charging below Rs 2,000 and some even lesser than Rs 1000, it was observed.
The owners of leading private school systems have rejected the government claims of making excessive increase in fees. Khwaja Yawar Naseer, director of Frontier Model School and president Private Schools Management Association, believed that majority of the schools in the province were charging normal fees.
He said that the prime minister’s directives could not be applied to the local schools, which according to him have made no big increase in the monthly charges. “We increased our fee from April last by not more than 10 percent and with the same ratio, we increased the salaries of our teachers and other staff members,” he said.
Yawar Naseer said the government should better check the elite schools, which have established schools in small bungalows and were charging Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month from each kid. “Believe me these elite schools arrange classes in kitchens and take Rs 12,000 - 15,000 from students,” he said.
The government instead of taking action against them was providing them facilities. Citing the example of Pak-Turk International School, Yawar said that the government provided it a spacious plot in Hayatabad Township and helped it with constructing the spacious building on the precious land. But the same school was charging the students for Rs12,000 a month. About the district administration’s claim of security charges and annual admission/promotion charges in private schools, he said, if the government has valid information about such charges, it should better take action against them.
Gayyur Ahmad Sethi, Director, Peshawar Model School, told The News that their monthly fees is Rs3,500. “We are charging only tuition fee. We don’t have other charges. We don’t take annual charges or fee in the name of security from the students,” he said.
The Peshawar Model has nearly 18 branches in Peshawar, Mardan and Nowshera where more than 20,000 students are enrolled.
According to Ghayyur Sethi, he had established first branch of the school on the Warsak Road in 1979 and the month fee at that time was Rs 200 only. “Our fee has been raised from Rs 200 to Rs3,500 in 36 long years, which is less than a hundred rupees per year,” he said.
The government has, however, a lot to do to regulate the private sector. It is strange that none of the relevant authorities have accurate data of private schools. There is no criterion for establishment of a new school. The boards of intermediate and secondary education have been serving as regulatory bodies of the private schools, but they remain confined to only registration and affiliation of the schools.
The government needs to have proper legislation for regulating the private school. However, the school owners and parents should be taken into confidence before such legislation.