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PTI MNA seeks 50pc reduction in private school fees during pandemic

PTI MNA seeks 50pc reduction in private school fees during pandemic

ISLAMABAD: PTI MNA from Islamabad Ali Nawaz Awan on Tuesday took up the matter of private school fees on the floor of the National Assembly and sought a chair’s ruling for 50pc fee reduction during the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking on a point of order, he said that the middle and lower classes have been hit badly by the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and, amid this difficult financial situation, private schools are still charging high fees for online classes.

He said that online classes have reduced the expenditure of schools, and fees should therefore be halved. Private schools have also laid off many teachers and their infrastructure is not being used either, he added.

Mr Awan said that the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira), which is supposed to regulate Islamabad-based private schools, has already directed for a 20pc reduction in fees, but this is not enough.

Wants matter referred to standing committee with feedback sought in 15 days

The MNA sought a chair’s ruling in this regard and said the matter should be referred to a special committee.

MNA Amjid Ali Khan, who was chairing the session in the absence of the speaker and deputy speaker, referred the matter to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education, with a direction to submit a report and feedback in 15 days.

Earlier, Mr Awan also said that 250,000 students are enrolled in public schools while 300,000 are enrolled in private schools.

He said that a Supreme Court judgement from “2018” - the judgement was actually issued in 2019 - that had frozen private school fees according to a baseline fee from January 2017 until Peira determines a new fee for schools has not been implemented so far.

He said there should only be a 5pc annual increase in school fees according to SC orders, but private schools are continuing to charge fees at will.

Peira has made halfhearted moves over the last few years to determine fees charged by private schools, but has failed to keep a check on school fees.

When contacted, authority spokesperson Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai said that the aforementioned SC judgement was challenged by private schools in the Islamabad High Court, which decided in February that the judgement was not applicable to Islamabad and was meant for Punjab and Sindh.

However, he said that Peira could take guidance from the judgement while determining fees for Islamabad’s schools.

“After the IHC judgment we started a process to collect required data from private schools in March but due to the coronavirus pandemic, that process could not be completed,” he said, adding that Peira will expedite the process of collecting data from schools such as details of expenditure, teachers’ strength, infrastructure and other facilities, to determine fees.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2020

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