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Fed up with exorbitant fees, parents take on private schools

Fed up with exorbitant fees, parents take on private schools

ISLAMABAD: Parents of students from some of the capital’s top private schools gathered to protest an inordinate increase in fees and called upon the authorities to devise a mechanism to maintain a check and balance on private institutions and streamline their fee structures.

Gathering outside the National Press Club on Tuesday evening, parents and civil society activists railed against the administration of some of Islamabad’s elite private schools, including Headstart Schools.

The demonstrators claimed that the school administration thought of parents as “ATM machines”, charging them exorbitant fees at will. Recently, they alleged, Headstart Schools had raised their tuition fees by 18 per cent without sending a prior intimation.




“The administration of Headstart forces us [the parents] to purchase highly priced school uniforms and books exclusively from them,” said Shazia Rasheed, whose daughter studies at Headstart.

She claimed that nearly all top private schools were fleecing parents, but the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) is doing absolutely nothing to stop the private schools’ mafia.

“We have taken up the issue with the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) ministry, but to no avail,” she said.

Earlier, talking to reporters at the press club, Aliya Agha – who is leading the campaign against exorbitant fees – said that each year, private school operators charged parents self-determined rates. “The owners of private schools are a mafia, we will not tolerate them anymore,” she said, adding that parents were being forced to pay tuition fees, annual fees and several other charges.

In a meeting held on Monday, parents of private school students had finalised a list of demands, in which they sought the revision of the monthly tuition fee, a justification for the annual fee and the elimination of the books and stationary charge.

They also demanded that parents should have the option to purchase school uniforms from other vendors and that following payment these should be the children’s property. They also called for the elimination or revision of summer fees and generator charges.

They also demanded that there should be no hidden or surprise charges in school fee bill, and that parents should be allowed to pay the fee either through cheque, credit cards or pay order as well as cash payments.

However, Nadine Murtaza – programmes coordinator for the Headstart Schools – told Dawn that a number of parents had come to them with the fee issue and the school administration had promised to look into the matter.

“We understand that it is tough to pay fees for multiple children, but running a school is also a very tough and thankless job. We try to cater to each parents’ concerns, but we are not a political party that can be cowed through protests and sit-ins,” she said.

Ms Murtaza said the school could only provide services against the fees that they were paid because they had no additional sources of income.

“In January, we spent nearly Rs20 million on security because the government mandated it. We had no extra funds for the purpose and had to do it out of our own finances.”

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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