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ISLAMABAD: The Capital Development Authority (CDA) on Monday sealed 12 schools in F-7, as part of a campaign against the nonconforming use of residential properties, bringing the total number of sealed schools in the capital to 51.

CDA Director Building Control Faisal Naeem said the CDA sealed 12 schools in F-7 on Monday, and had previously sealed 39 schools in other sectors, including G-6, F-8 and I-8.

He said that under CDA rules no commercial activity, including the operation of private schools, is permitted in residential areas.

“In May, we were directed by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to carry out operations against schools operating in residential areas,” he said, adding that the operations will continue over the coming days.

Summary to allow preschools to operate in residential areas likely to be taken up at next CDA board meeting

The Private Schools Association, however, has announced that it “will hold classes on the roads” after summer vacations end, and the association’s president has also said that the CDA’s action was condemnable. He said operators of private schools have also decided to file cases in the IHC and Supreme Court.

According to CDA records, there are 363 schools operating in the capital’s residential areas.

Some CDA officials Dawn spoke to said private schools earn millions of rupees but continue to operate in residential areas, disturbing neighbours and causing problems for traffic. They said such schools must be moved out of residential neighbourhoods because of the disturbance they cause.

However, other CDA officials have pointed out that it is a failure of successive governments that government-run schools have not provided high quality education, resulting in the proliferation of private schools.

They said the private school issue was chronic, and should be addressed with new policies instead of simply sealing buildings without viable alternatives.

“Sealing should be the last option. First we should provide alternative school plots that would be auctioned. We have to think of the millions of students who are studying in these schools,” said a CDA official who asked not to be named.

The Private Schools Association has claimed that there were 393 government schools 20 years ago, but as successive governments failed to establish new schools in accordance with requirements, the number of public schools and colleges two decades later has only risen to 423, while the population of the city has seen a five-fold increase.

Private schools are filled this gap, the association said. Private school operators have said that the CDA has allotted large plots to public schools, where substantial areas are abandoned and could be auctioned for private schools. They also said that primary schools should be allowed in residential areas.

The CDA, after rejecting a request by private schools, decided to consider a summary to allow preschools – nursery and playgroup – in residential areas. This summary will likely be taken up at the next CDA board meeting, and if approved will lead to changes in CDA regulations which currently do not allow any school to run in residential areas.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2018