Irked by fee spikes, parents set to stage protests

LAHORE:28 august:Parents of children studying in private schools have again decided to mount a protest campaign against fee spikes by what they call the ‘private school mafia’. They maintained that some schools increased fee by as much as 15% during the current academic year. According to the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Bill (Amended) 2015, they are allowed a five% increase. Most parents believe that the government should strictly monitor and curb such undue increase in fees. K-P’s new voucher scheme targets out-of-school children Criticising the provincial government’s inaction in this regard, parents said that it seemed that the government was unwilling to enforce relevant laws and disallow the exorbitant fee increase. Private Schools Parents Association (PSPA) Punjab Chapter President Faisal Khalid Sheikh, who also represents parents in the District Education Authority (DEA) tasked with dealing with complaints against private schools, said that elitist schools were increasing fee without any fear. He said that the standard response by schools had been that Punjab School Education Minister Rana Mashhood had allowed them to increase 8% fee in an academic year. However, the latest increase was far more than this and illegal, he said. Sheikh said that parents had filed several complaints over the fee hike with the DEA and the DCO even called up managements of some of the schools concerned, but nothing changed and the schools continued to charge the increased fee. He said that parents were deciding when to stage protests, adding that there would be protests every week after Eid holidays. Punjab government’s committee The Punjab government also taken notice of the situation and constituted a committee to look into the matter. The panel will hold its first meeting on Monday (today) in a bid to resolve the matter in an amicable manner. Secretary of the Punjab School Education (SED) Dr Allah Baksh Malik said: “Schools charging a fee above Rs4,000 were only allowed to raise fee after taking prior approval from the DEA. However, this has come to our notice that some schools have unilaterally increased the fees. Because of this increase, parents have expressed serious concern and the chief minister has taken a serious notice of the situation.” He said that a committee had been set up to resolve this matter. He said that the committee was headed by the additional chief secretary and other members include the Punjab Higher Education Secretary and he was also part of the committee. Corporal punishment: Parents demand action against teacher Dr Malik said that schools would only be allowed to raise fee in full compliance with the law. “We will ensure all schools charge fee in accordance with the law and we will also resolve all complaints made by the parents.” Private schools federation President of All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) Kashif Mirza said that the matter was in the court and schools would uphold the decision of the court. He said: “Schools respect the Lahore High Court decision in this matter and will comply with its orders. If any school is charging more [than the court orders], the federation condemns this. We are very clear on this matter. Every school must respect and uphold the court’s decision and cooperate with parents.” Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2017.

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