Tuition fee: Parents anxious as schools exploit legal lacuna

Published December 25, 2014
Students attending a class at the Jufelhurst School. — Dawn/File
Students attending a class at the Jufelhurst School. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: In the absence of an effective mechanism to regulate the tuition fee structure, most private schools are set to increase their fees arbitrarily from next year, it emerged on Wednesday.

Speaking to Dawn, parents whose children are studying in different schools of Karachi said that the continued delay by the Sindh High Court in deciding the case relating to the enhancement of tuition fee had given a kind of protection to managements of private educational institutions to raise fee that suited their interests.

“We call upon the government to enforce its law on academic fee regulation. If some quarters have some reservations over it, they should take them up with the government and resolve the issue. But schools must not be allowed to take advantage of the legal vacuum,” said Asad Saeed whose children study at a private school in Saddar, adding that the court decision had been pending for nine years.

Parents to whom Dawn spoke said that they had received letters from school administrations that planned to increase the school fee from next year. The fee increase, they said, was unrealistic and too high.

“Though it’s an annual practice, parents have now decided to raise their voice against it. The school administration has informed us about a 15pc increase in tuition fee and, like previous years, the enhanced fee of June and July would be submitted in January and February next year,” said a parent whose child were enrolled in a private school in North Nazimabad.

The administration, he said, had refused to listen to parents’ plea to allow them some relaxation in submitting the enhanced tuition fee of June and July. “We won’t be getting double salaries in January and February, so how could we arrange the raised fee that, too, in advance?” he asked.

The school set up in a small bungalow offered no playing area to students and parents were often burdened with additional expenses in the name of extra-curricular activities, he added.

Voicing similar concerns, another parent whose children studied in a Gulshan-i-Iqbal school said that the administration had informed him of a 20 per cent increase in the tuition fee from next year.

“They have told us that either we pay the enhanced fee in advance or take our child out of the school,” he said.

Such complaints are rampant throughout the city and it seems there is no monitoring authority to regulate private schools. However, this is not so. There is the Directorate of Inspection/Registration of Private Institutions operating under the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation & Control) Ordinance 2001 and its amended rules 2005.

As the law’s title indicates that it is for all privately run educational institutions.

Lack of implementation

According to clause seven (3) of the amended rules, the fee might be increased up to five per cent only of the last fee schedule to proper justification and approval of the registration authority.

It also says that the fee schedule once approved shall not be increased at any time during the academic year and that any fee other than tuition fee shall be charged only after approval from the registration authority subject to the condition that no fee, charges or voluntary donation would be charged by the institution on account of any development activity.

“The institute shall ensure that all the conditions of admission along with the schedule of fees duly approved by the registration authority shall be provided to parents or guardians at the time of admissions.

“Any complaint regarding the tuition fee in violation to rules or charging of any fee other than tuition fees shall be liable to be punished under section of the ordinance.”

These rules were made after the ordinance 2001 (that gave a free hand to private institutions in deciding their tuition fee) was opposed by some quarters.

The Section 11 of the ordinance 2001 reads, “Subject to the provisions of section 4 whoever runs an institution in contravention of the provisions of this ordinance or rules shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 500 for each day during the period of offence continues or with both.”

Sources said that the clause limiting enhancement in tuition fee to five per cent was challenged by privately run schools the same year amended rules were introduced in 2005.

The petition, sources said, was last year clubbed together with another plea challenging the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education 2013. The second petition was also filed by managements of private schools as the law states that, “Privately owned or managed schools shall also provide free education to such students of the age of five to sixteen years at least ten per cent of their actual strength of students.

Currently, there are over 12,000 registered private schools in Sindh while there is no data available on unregistered schools.

Upon contact, head of the Directorate of Inspection/Registration of Private Institutions under the education and literacy department Dr Mansoob Siddiqui said the continued pending of the case was an obstacle in implementing the rules on enhancing the tuition fee.

“But even then we intervene on receiving a complaint and force the relevant school to follow the law. Over two dozen complaints are reported daily at our office relating to enhanced tuition fee,” he said.

On the submission of enhanced fee, he said that the directorate issued a notification every year pertaining to collection of advanced fee of June and July that, he said, could be collected between January and May, according to parents’ convenience.

“This has been permitted because school administrations argued that parents often skipped paying tuition fees of June and July (the period of two-month holidays) in time, which later created troubles for them in paying salaries to teachers,” he said.

In response to a question regarding lack of adequate facilities at schools, he explained that the department needed to be strengthened by increasing staff number and equipping them with proper facilities.

“Private schools are also bound under the law to allow at least 10pc deserving students study for free,” he said.

Responding to questions, representatives of private schools said that they didn’t get any financial support from the government and there was a need to enhance the five per cent limit on fee enhancement to at least 10pc.

“The present limit is unrealistic and we believe that it needs to be enhanced according to the inflation rate,” argued Sharaf-uz-Zaman of the Private Schools Management Association.

According to Khalid Shah representing the All Private Schools Management Association, though schools in the low-income group are somewhat implementing the law, the high-income schools are in absolute violation of the law on tuition fee.

“Parents can contact us to resolve issues with school administrations. We will try bridge the gap and help parents understand our point of view,” he offered.

Parents can report complaints against the school administration by personally visiting the Directorate of Inspection/Registration of Private Institutions or posting a letter to the directorate office located at the Government Degree College for Women off Shahrah-i-Liaquat in Saddar, Karachi.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2014

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