KARACHI: Private schools and tuition centres operating in bungalows have been warned by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) to shift their premises to places which comply with all legal formalities during the upcoming winter vacations or else they will face action.

A public notice published in newspapers and sent directly as well targets all private schools and tuition centres and is telling them to close down all their institutions located in residential areas or else face the consequences.

Though it is generally addressed all those businesses currently using residential spaces for their commercial operations, the concluding part of the notice created quite a stir among the educational institutions.

“Construction carried out by way of material changes in the use of land/building other than the approved building plan and land development permit in violation of the law will be demolished and/or sealed. Criminal action will also be taken in accordance with the law,” it said and added: “All the occupants/tenants/owners within the jurisdiction of Karachi division are hereby directed to stop all such illegal activities forthwith and restore the construction to approved building plan and approved land use plan in accordance with allotment/lease terms and conditions, for which the plan was approved.”

The authority’s chief clarifies that no action will be taken during current academic year

Since most of the schools in the city are running their operations in bungalows, houses and structures built for residential purposes, the notice particularly addressed the owners of the educational institutions.

“The private schools association of Karachi is also requested to ensure shifting of their schools/educational institutions/tuition centres on proper designated premises/plot during winter vacations,” the notice added.

Currently, there are more than 5,000 private schools amounting to 99 per cent that have been built on residential plots in Karachi. Therefore all educational institutions have been issued an ultimatum, till Dec 31, to move out or the SBCA will be left with no other choice but to seal their premises.

‘Decision will result in closure of 99pc of schools’

In response to the notification, the All Private Schools Management Association (APSMA), Sindh, has said that it would be a big blow to the education sector.

APSMA chief Tariq Shah appealed to the SBCA as well as the chief justice of Pakistan, president, prime minister, army chief, governor and the chief minister to not take away the right to education from the children and the future of the country like this.

“I urge you to kindly end this attitude of negativity towards education and be more tolerant for the sake of the education of the country’s children. Your attitude of intolerance in this matter will not only disturb the education of children, your order has already made the parents, teachers and school owners panic. In a way, your step to close all schools functioning in residential areas will result in the closure of 99pc schools, not to mention the loss of jobs for many teachers, educationists and non-teaching staff in these schools,” he said.

No action in current academic year, assures SBCA chief

Talking to Dawn, SBCA director general Iftikhar Kaimkhani ruled out any immediate action and said that the authority had only alerted the educational institutions so that they could prepare themselves to move their facilities to the spaces meeting all regulations by the start of the next academic year.

“I think people and educational institutions got confused after we issued the public notice,” he said. “We are not going to touch any running schools during this academic year ... we have no plan to bulldoze or vacate them,” he said. “We very much realise the sensitivity of the situation and can’t suddenly make such a big decision. We are in touch with the private schools’ association and other educational institutions and we have made our position clear to them as well.

“There is a provision in the town planning regulations to set up a school in the residential area and owners have to meet all those regulations. We have just issued a public notice and asked them to be prepared for shifting their facilities to places which comply with the government regulations by the start of next academic year,” said Mr Kaimkhani.

The SBCA notification also includes other businesses set up on residential plots as buildings leased for residential purposes should not be used for commercial purposes because it is illegal to do so.

Last week, the Sindh education and literacy department had also cracked down on private schools charging extra fees while failing to comply with court orders regarding fee regulations by threatening to cancel the registration of a number of elite schools in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2018

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