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ISLAMABAD: The Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) received over 500 complaints through the Pakistan Citizens Portal against private schools for asking parents to deposit full fee for the summer vacation.

The complainants called upon Prime Minister Imran Khan to look into the unjustified step.

However, Peira, the regulatory body, has been playing the role of a silent spectator.

“Yes, we received over 500 complaints through the citizens’ portal and will decide the matter in consultation with the federal government,” Peira Chairman Imtiaz Qureshi told Dawn.

In December last year, the Supreme Court directed private schools to refund 50pc of the fee they had charged the students for the summer vacation.

This year again the schools either have received the fee for the summer vacation or issued fee vouchers to the parents. Sources in education ministry said the regulatory body was playing no role even though on the direction of the apex court the schools had last year adjusted half of the summer vacation fee.

Peira yet to take action against schools asking parents to deposit full fee for summer vacation

“Inflation is already rising and we have been facing several issues. The private schools have already been charging high fee and are now asking us to pay fee for the summer vacation too,” said a parent whose three daughters are studying in a private school.

“I enrolled my daughters in a private school just because of successive governments’ failure to provide quality education in its schools. And private schools without having any check are charging high fee and now they have issued challans for the vacation,” he said.

Another parent, requesting not to be named, said the prime minister should take notice of the issue.

“The prime minister should look into it as why Peira and the Ministry of Education are not resolving the issue,” he said.

Parents criticised the role of Peira and said there was a clear-cut precedent of last year when the Supreme Court issued an order to the schools but the organisation was unmoved to protect parents’ interest.

“If all issues are to be settled by the Supreme Court, what is the role of this regulatory body,” said another parent.

A few days ago, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on CDA Affairs Ali Nawaz Awan during a meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education came down hard on Peira for not taking action against schools demanding full fee for the summer vacation.

In Dec 2018, the Supreme Court had also slashed tuition fee of private schools by 20pc.

The court capped the annual fee increase at five per cent and directed the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to scrutinise the tax records and accounts of private schools.

During the proceedings, audit reports of some schools were presented before the bench. One of the reports said some directors of schools were paid Rs8.3 million each as a monthly salary.

Later, the private schools filed a review petition against the decision and after hearing arguments of all stakeholders the apex court recently reserved its judgment.

When contacted, Abdul Waheed Khan, a representative of the Private Schools Association, defended charging of full fee for the summer vacation.

“We have to pay salaries to our teachers and meet other expenditure such as building rent etc. So collecting summer fee is justified,” he said.

When asked about the Supreme Court decision of last year, he said: “It was an interim order and we challenged it through a review petition and the judgment has now been reserved.”

He said the court’s interim order relating to the summer vacation fee was specifically for the year 2018.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2019