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KARACHI: While throwing out the petition of city’s private schools for increasing their fee more than five per cent and allowing a set of petitions of parents, the Sindh High Court on Friday directed the education department to enforce the restricted increase in fee and submit quarterly the audited accounts report of the private schools in court.

The private schools had challenged the law stipulating them not to increase their fee more than five per cent within an academic year.

Headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, a two-judge bench also ruled that no further enhancement shall be permitted until the re-registration of the schools which had increased their tuition fee over 5pc per year during the past three years.

The bench announced its 16-page verdict on a number of identical petitions filed by the parents and the Generation’s School Private Limited and other private schools.

The bench directed the provincial education department to ensure enforcement of Sub-rule 7 m(3) of the Rules 2002 that bound the private institutions not to raise their fee more than 5pc within an academic year and further requiring them to revise fee structure with prior approval of the government.

Expressing displeasure over the response of the private schools on the question of increasing fee, the bench observed that they always responded that the fee charged was commensurate with the facilities provided by the schools.

“They claim that their business method is based on the open market principle of ‘you get — what you pay for’, which is a shameful admission in respect of the noble profession of imparting education,” the court remarked in the judgement.

The judges observed that the rift between the two sides was growing with every passing day because of failure of the education department to regulate private schools.

“At the same time failure of the state to impart education through public schools is also giving impetus to private individuals to fill this vacuum resulting in mushrooming of private schools,” the court noted.

The court also observed that the private schools were not following the mechanism for increasing fee, neither was there any compulsion on them by the education department to do so.

According to the counsel of private schools, the cost of running a private school, hiring staff with high level of expertise, increased cost of utilities and taxes forces them to increase their tuition fees.

He said that the schools also had to afford the higher costs of installing effective security apparatus. Moreover, he added, the government coming up with enhanced wages and induction of students under free compulsory education laws into private schools added to their financial burden.

The counsel contended that the private schools ought to have autonomy in its administration and financial affairs including fixation of fee to enable them impart education at the highest standards since these institutions do not receive any aid from the government.

He was of the opinion that fixation of fee by the government was unreasonable, which amounts to intruding into the private affairs of educational institutions.

The counsel appearing for the parents questioned the collection of exorbitant fees by private schools and submitted that the fee hike was illegal and unjustified as the law allowed the schools to increase only 5pc.

However, he added, the schools had increased the fee more than 10pc.

The counsel said that his clients’ children were studying in different classes at different branches of the Generation’s School whose management had arbitrarily increased the tuition fees.

He said that the parents could not pay the excessive fees, after which the management of the school wrote letters, forcing them to clear their dues and warning them that on failing coercive action would be taken against the children.

The counsel pleaded the court to restrain the school management from taking any adverse action that might jeopardize the career of their children.

He contended that hike in fees was in violation of the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Ordinances of 2003 and 2015, under Section 6 of the law the fee structure must be fixed with prior approval of the government.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2016