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SC seeks private schools audit, forms body on fee hike

Updated October 17, 2018

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There should be some capping or reasonableness in the fee structure, said Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a three-judge bench that had initiated suo motu proceedings against school fee hike. — File Photo
There should be some capping or reasonableness in the fee structure, said Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a three-judge bench that had initiated suo motu proceedings against school fee hike. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered upscale private schools to furnish their respective audit reports and formed a committee to be headed by federal ombudsman for finding an amicable solution to the issue of exorbitant fees being collected from parents.

There should be some capping or reasonableness in the fee structure, said Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a three-judge bench that had initiated suo motu proceedings against school fee hike.

He said the private sector would not be allowed to fleece parents.

“Education is something which should be imparted with passion,” he observed.

The chief justice also observed that Law and Justice Commission (LJC) drafted a policy on regularisation of school fee structure and highlighted the need for doing something for posterity.

Private sector will not be allowed to fleece parents, says chief justice

He quoted a couple of examples to emphasise that teaching was one of the noblest professions. He said once renowned Urdu writer and broadcaster Ashfaq Ahmed had to appear in the court of a magistrate in Rome over some traffic challan.

After learning that he was a professor, the magistrate cautioned the people in the courtroom to be respectful since there was a “teacher in the court”, the CJP quoted.

Likewise, he added, when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Milan (Italy) he pronounced that whosoever wanted to save his life could seek shelter in the houses of teachers.

“This is the respect of the teacher and institutions imparting education,” CJP Nisar observed, adding the institutions should not fleece the parents so much that it becomes unbearable for them to provide quality education to their children.

During the proceedings, he made it clear that the court was not going to close any private school nor nationalise any institution.

However, he explained, what the court wanted to see was that provision of quality education for children must remain affordable to most parents.

At one point, many parents who had come to attend the court proceedings started applauding when the CJP asked if the apex court should determine the fee structure of private schools. But he stopped them by saying this was against the decorum of the court.

The chief justice regretted that public schools had been “neglected deliberately” so that private schools should take over the entire education sector.

Senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui while representing parents pleaded before the apex court that forensic audit of big schools be conducted so that the court could be apprised about the perks and privileges being enjoyed by those running the schools.

Another counsel Ejaz argued that financial statements and account details of private schools were neither transparent nor available with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, however, emphasised that the basic question was whether the court could determine the amount of return or profits on investments in the education sector. He said as it was the job of regulator, how the court could say the investors could not get profits.

LJC Secretary Dr Mohammad Rahiem Awan said most of private schools hired teachers on a daily wage basis or visiting faculties, besides they developed infrastructure on amenity plots, but they did not provide free education to deserving students in “violation of the agreement”.

The chief justice regretted about the menace of narcotics in upscale schools and the sniffing opportunities being provided by waiters of school canteens. He highlighted the need of a crackdown to discourage such tendencies.

At this, a lawyer raised a complaint against “unethical dance and Halloween parties” in such schools.

Sardar Latif Khosa regretted that class distinction was being created through different school systems. He also highlighted the amount of hatred among students of upscale private schools and public schools against each other.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2018