ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa on Tuesday said he expected the federal and provincial governments to provide complete statistics about their claims that they had made efforts to bring about improvements in the education sector.
“We will question where the government schools, which used to be run in every locality, have gone and if they come up with tall claims, the court will order carrying out inspection to verify their assertions,” the chief justice observed while heading a three-judge bench.
The SC bench had taken up a set of cases relating to the state of educational institutions and increase in fees by private schools.
SC was hearing cases concerning fee hike by private schools
The observations came when Advocate General for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Abdul Latif Yousafzai informed the court that the province would file a concise statement on education.
Earlier on April 9, the Supreme Court had ordered the federal as well as provincial governments to provide complete data along with information regarding fulfilment of their responsibility under Article 25-A of the Constitution which obligates the state to provide free and compulsory education to all children in such a manner as may be determined by the law.
“We keep education very close to our heart since there is nothing without knowledge,” observed the chief justice.
He bemoaned that in earlier times roads used to be in a dilapidated condition and buses plying them were in an abysmal shape, but the passengers used to be civilised. “Now we have metalled roads, world class buses, but people sitting inside them are Abu Jahl.”
Giving an example from his personal life, the CJP said that throughout his life he went to government schools and college. When he went abroad to study at the Cambridge University and Lincoln’s Inn, he did not feel any disadvantage because the quality of education he had received at government academic institutions was excellent, he added.
“Absence of good quality public-sector education system means a child from an ordinary family, no matter how brilliant or sharp, will have no chance to stand out,” he said.
Earlier, senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, representing the parents, emphasised that what Article 25-A was referring to was also to regulate private schools since it also stressed free and compulsory education.
“Education with respect to the economic background of the backward class is also one of the obligations of the state which this constitutional provision imposes,” Mr Siddiqui said.
“Thus the importance of the education and economic disparities of society is of a fundamental significance,” he said, adding that Article 11(3) of the Constitution accorded central importance to women and children. “But here children are subjected to arbitrary and compulsory increase in school fees,” he argued, adding that parents had no problem if any private school made money or profit, but what they were objecting to was profiteering, fleecing or exploitation.
During the hearing, the chief justice observed that an Indian court had held that although education was a business, it could not be allowed to be run like a business and that profiteering should always be curtailed.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a member of the three-judge bench hearing the case, said: “If we remove private sector education from the current equation, it would mean there is no education as the public sector education is nowhere to be seen.”
As far as the education and health sectors were concerned, “our priorities are not right”, he said, adding that as long as governments were not managing resources for education, the private sector was doing reasonably a good job.
“However, this is also increasing disparity in our society since without good quality education, one cannot find a good job and gain a better position in our society,” Justice Ahsan said and stressed the need for a balance between the private and public sector education.
Justice Faisal Arab, another a member of the three-judge bench, bemoaned that the obligation under Article 25-A of the Constitution placed on the state to provide free and compulsory education to the children had never been considered.
The case will be taken up again on Wednesday (today).
Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2019