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Private schools in Islamabad still charging full fee despite closure

Private schools in Islamabad still charging full fee despite closure

ISLAMABAD: Private schools in the capital, due to weak regulatory check, continue to charge full fee even when schools are closed during the pandemic. However, the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) is unmoved to protect the rights of parents.

Last year, Peira had notified a 20pc fee reduction for schools charging more than Rs5,000 per month. Later, another notification for fee reduction was issued to be effective till the opening of schools on Sept 15. But when schools were reopened and then closed again, Peira issued no new notification, meaning from Sept 15 last year parents have been paying full fee.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, job opportunities saw a decline, many parents have become jobless and many face cuts in salaries, but they are forced to pay full fee. This is unfortunate the regulatory body has failed to protect the rights of parents,” said Hamid Khan, who represents a group of parents who have been raising their voice on social media against full fees being charged by private schools.

“Peira is hands in glove with private schools, as last year through a notification they only directed the schools charging more than Rs5,000 per month, excluding majority of schools which charge less than that amount,” he said and added that the 20pc reduction was also not fully implemented by private schools. He said during Covid-19 the business of private schools flourished as they collected full fee during closure of educational institutions.

Education minister to look into parents’ concerns

“While parents, besides paying fees, also face extra burden of purchasing computers etc for their kids for online education,” he said, adding the Supreme Court in 2019 had directed schools to make recalculations using the fee prevailing in 2017 as the base fee with an annual 5pc increase.

However, he said parents in Islamabad are yet to benefit from this verdict as private schools are charging fees without any involvement from Peira, which is the regulatory body bound to determine the fee of private schools.

When contacted, Zafar Yousafzai, a spokesperson for Peira, rejected the allegation being levelled by parents. He said a proposal was under consideration for reduction in fee of private schools during the pandemic.

“Hopefully, this week we will issue a notification in this regard, as we did last year when we directed the schools charging more than Rs5,000 fee to give 20pc concessions,” he added.

Talking about the Supreme Court’s decision, he said private schools had challenged it before Islamabad High Court (IHC), which decided that even though the Supreme Court’s verdict is not directly applicable in Islamabad Peira could get guidance from it to determine the fees.

Mr Yousafzai said on Sept 1 last year, Peira notified an interim policy stating that the increase in fee should not be more than 5pc annually from 2017 onward and all private educational institutions will not charge more than 50pc of the actual fee during summer vacations.

Private schools got a stay order from IHC and the matter is still in the process of litigation. However, he said, despite this Peira has been working to finalise a roadmap for fee determination, which will likely be notified in May this year.

Spokesperson for Private School Association Abdul Waheed said 20pc reduction of fee will be injustice for private schools as during the pandemic recovery of fee is very less.

Talking about the interim policy of Peira notified on Sept 1, he said the policy was unjustified as it had directed for a 50pc discount during summer vacations.

So far, Peira has no valid rules to determine the fee of private schools as its rules of 2016 were turned down by IHC.

It is relevant to note here that Peira is a regulatory body which is empowered to determine the fee of private schools but schools continue to charge fees as they wish.

Parents have been vocal about the issue on social media. On Sunday, a citizen, Sajjad Ali Naz, asked Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Twitter whether a discount in fee will be given to parents, to which the minister replied: “We will examine this matter. No injustice to anyone.”

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2021

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