Strangling the private education sector


By Farman Nawaz

 

Last month the Peshawar High Court has rejected the writ petition filed by some private schools, challenging an article 106 of Chapter – IV of the education code 1935 about fee concession to siblings studding at the same school. The decision of the Honorable Peshawar High Court dated 1-2-2011 states; “when two or more real brothers and sisters attend the same school or different schools in the province, only the brother or sister in the highest class of a school shall be required to pay the full rate of fee. The fees payable by the other brothers and sisters shall not exceed one half the ordinary rates”.

Now the question is that how the private schools can implement this strange rule. According to this rule suppose the elder son of Honorable Chief Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan studies in private school A and his daughter is studding in private school B, so according to the rule the private school B will have to charge his daughter half fee. I think the private school B has the right to request the Honorable Chief Justice to admit his daughter to School A because school A is also enjoying the full fee of his son. Or the other option is to bring his son to school B so that school B can enjoy the full fee of his son too. The same rule can be applied to other parents too.

Now let me point towards another issue. For the last few years government is providing free text books to the students studying in government schools. When the authorities were asked that the students studding in private schools are also Pakistani and they must also be provided these text books so the answer was that students studding in private schools are from wealthy families that’s why they don’t deserve these books. Secondly students studding in government school are mostly poor and they also deserve to get Zakat. Now the same government is keenly interested in compelling the private schools to allow the wealthy students to avail brother sister fee concession. Do these students deserve Zakat? If not so why they are eager to study by getting charity in shape of fee concession.

Most of the government employees also admit their children to private schools and they hope that private schools, which get no government aid, must give them brother sister fee concession. Isn’t it a mistrust on government schools? The court should also bind the government employees to admit their children in government schools. Why parents are demanding fee concession from private schools which unlike government schools provide better facilities and teaching staff. Government teachers are mostly absent from their duties while private schools ensure quality teaching by binding their teachers to attend the classes regularly. The rules made for government schools, where even government teachers do not admit their own children, should not be imposed on private schools.

The government has given authority to Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Education to keep a check on the fee concession matters but it must also be checked that whether educational boards are giving the same facility to the real brothers and sisters. Strangely the court has no objection if the private schools raise their fee to adjust the concession given to real brothers and sisters. It will have an effect on the real deserving students. At present private schools are giving 20 – 50 percent fee concessions to poor students. If private schools raise their fees and cancel the above mentioned fee concession just to implement the decision of the high court, this will surely affect the poor and deserving parents.

Whatever legal arguments presented by the former Advocate General Qazi Rashidul Haq, who appeared for the educational institutions, in the court I will not repeat it here because the court know it already and the public is informed through the media. Here I will only concentrate on the issue of brother sister fee concession. Really it is a matter of great concern for the private schools. Because mostly 3 to 4 children of a family studies in the same school. The decision of court will have an effect on the income of the school and consequently the teaching staff and non-teaching staff will also suffer. The administration will not raise their salaries just to overcome the loss caused by allowing brother sister fee concession.

I don’t know how the court will react to my these words but let me say this fact that the honorable court should not decide economical matters of autonomous bodies  in this way. Last time the sugar mills owner exploited the decision of the court and now we have to purchase sugar in double price. But surprisingly now the court is quiet about these new prices. The decision of the court has benefited the sugar mills owners. Similarly the recent decision of the court about brother sister fee concession will ultimately affect the parents and could be exploited by the private schools.

Instead of taking interest in fee concession the court must form a body that can have a check on the private schools whether the fee is in accordance with the facilities these schools are providing. Private schools can be checked from different angles like the qualification of its teaching staff, number of students per class, facilities like playground, video room, computer lab, library etc, the management method of the school, salary structure, annual increments etc. The fee structure must be in accordance with these facilities. However the authorities must keep this thing in mind that what are the standards set for the government schools. If private schools are providing more than the standards set for government schools then the government has no right to interfere in fee structure.

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