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ISLAMABAD: In a bid to resolve the chronic issue of using residential properties for schools, the city managers and private school operators on Friday huddled to devise a policy.

On the direction of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), the CDA conducted the public hearing which was attended by over 100 operators of private schools. There are 362 schools in the residential areas of the capital.

A couple of years ago, the CDA had issued notices to the school operators to move out from residential areas. But the school owners approached the IHC contending that the CDA move had put the future of over 100,000 students at a stake.

According to Director Building Control Faisal Naeem, the court had ordered the CDA to hold a public hearing and come up with an amicable solution.

Member Planning Asad Mehboob Kayani chaired the public hearing held at Jinnah Convention Centre.

Private School Association President Zofran Elahi told the participants that about 20 years ago there were 393 government schools and their number had now reached only 422. During this period, population of the capital city increased five times but the government did not establish new schools as per requirement of the population.

This gap, Mr Elahi said, had been filled by the private sector. He said if the CDA wanted to solve the non-conforming issue of schools it should consider the model of China where the state constructed buildings and gave them to schools on rent as most of the schools lacked funds to construct purpose-built buildings of their own. He said this could be done by the CDA on its own or in partnership with the private sector.

National Association of Private Schools (Islamabad) President Chaudhry Mohammad Obaidullah said the CDA should make amendments to its bylaws to accommodate schools in the residential sectors. He said small plots should be created in same sectors to accommodate schools of the neighborhood.

The owners of schools demanded the CDA allow primary and pre-primary schools to operate in residential houses.

However, the member planning told the participants that the CDA would divide schools in three categories before finalising a policy.

He said those operators who got plots from the CDA and built schools on the plots but were also running schools in residential houses would be included in a separate category. Those who got plots but did not construct schools will be kept in another category. He said small schools would be treated with a soft view in the third category. The official hinted that in the new policy only pre-primary schools would be allowed in residential houses.

Mr Kayani told Dawn that different options were discussed with the school owners and a new policy would be formulated soon. “Today, it was just an idea-sharing meeting and we have not taken any final decision,” he said.

A couple of years ago a committee comprising city officials had prepared a work plan for the relocation of the private educational institutions from residential areas. The committee had suggested that the CDA should offer 120 plots of four kanals each to the owners. The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) would explore the possibility of carving out the plots by cutting down the size of the government educational institutions.

These plots would be given to private schools in five years. However, no work was done on the plan.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2018