ISLAMABAD: Private schools which are facing allegations of charging exorbitant fees have now stirred another controversy by demanding four months advance fees from students appearing in O and A Level exams.
They have also withheld admission cards for students appearing in their O and A Level examinations later this month until their fees for future months are cleared.
“Who can afford to pay four months’ fees in one go,” asked the father of a private school student who he feared would not be able to sit for his Cambridge exams on April 29.
An upscale chain of schools in the capital has even demanded five months’ fees, from April to August, to release statements of entry.
The Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Piera) on Monday directed all private schools not to charge summer fees from students due to appear in the examinations before the holidays commence.
Says it has received complaints of schools withholding statements of entry for O, A Level exams until four-month fees are paid
Sources said hundreds of parents have registered complaints with Piera that upscale schools have stopped issuing statements of entry for O and A Level students, demanding four month advance fees.
A Piera official said O Level exams start this month, and A Level exams the next. He said there was therefore no justification for collecting four month advance fees, adding: “We will not allow anyone to exploit parents.”
Piera issued a letter to all private schools on Monday which stated: “It has come to the notice of this authority that various private schools have started charging fees in advance even up to four months and debarred those O & A Level students from statement of entry whose parents are unable to pay huge amounts of fee in advance, thus, making them incapable to appear in their upcoming examination of Cambridge.”
It directed “all private schools operating in Islamabad” to charge fees on a monthly basis for the month due, and to “immediately release” statements of entry to students who have paid fees up to April 2019.
Piera warned school operators that violating these instructions would be considered contravention of the Islamabad Capital Territory Private Educational Institutions (Registration and Regulations) Act and the Private Educational Institutions (Registration and Fee Determination) Rules.
Piera Chairman Imtiaz Qureshi confirmed that all schools have been directed to release statements of entry to students whose dues up to April this year are cleared.
He said the authority has received more than 500 complaints that statements of entry have not been issued, adding that Piera would also inform the Supreme Court – already hearing a case on fee increases – about this violation.
Private schools that offer matriculation and FA and FSc programmes also used to exploit students and parents in the name of roll number slips, which was stopped when the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education began uploading the slips to its website a couple of years ago.
In December last year, the SC had ordered private schools to cut fees by 20pc and refund half of the summer fees they had received last year.
Compliance reports were to be submitted to ensure that the order was implemented.
Sources in Piera said of the 125 upscale schools in Islamabad that were charging more than Rs5,000 in fees, around 30 have not fully complied.
Mr Qureshi said the compliance reports of around 30 schools were not satisfactory.
When contacted, Private School Association representative Abdul Waheed said private schools have complied with SC orders.
He also refuted Piera’s claims about the statements of entry for O and A Level students being stopped, saying that they should make the complaints they have received public. He added that Piera was targeting private education.
“I would say that if schools are demanding fees up to August for releasing statements of entry without any contract, there is no justification in their demands,” he said.
Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2019