ISLAMABAD: A subcommittee of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training on Monday directed the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) to implement the Supreme Court ruling that decided that private schools would charge monthly tuition fees in accordance with the baseline fee from January 2017.
The subcommittee, headed by MNA Ali Nawaz Awan, met at Parliament House with MNAs Sadaqat Abbasi, Nafeesa Khattak and Mehnaz Akber Aziz also in attendance.
The subcommittee said the SC’s landmark judgement had decided that private schools would charge fees in accordance with fees in 2017, with a 5pc annual increase.
In a detailed judgement issued on Friday, the SC decided that private schools would charge the same fees as in January 2017. Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who authored the judgement, also expressed concerns over reports that schools have raised fees excessively since 2017.
The subcommittee directed for a compliance report to be submitted to it on Oct 10, and details of schools violating the court order should be shared as well. Peira was also told to set up a grievance cell where parents could register complaints about schools.
NA subcommittee criticises Peira’s performance, directs authority to set up grievance cell for parents
Mr Awan also directed for a letter to be issued to all private schools immediately, directing them to follow the SC ruling and not to take adverse action against students if their parents do not deposit the coming month’s fees owing to technical issues, such as the interpretation of the SC decision.
He also criticised Peira officials, saying that more than 250,000 students are enrolling in Islamabad’s private schools but the regulatory body has failed to deliver.
The subcommittee directed Peira to map all schools situated in the capital so people can be informed of registered and unregistered schools.
“We will not allow private schools to exploit parents. If the need arises, we will hold a public hearing where parents will be invited to share their issues,” he said.
Mr Awan added: “Peira should take steps to regulate private schools. Teachers should be hired and paid in accordance with the set rules, and there should be effective parent-teacher associations in all schools.”
The subcommittee said there is no personal issue with private schools, and no one could deny the contribution private schools have made to the education sector to fill the gap created by the downfall of public sector schools. However, parliamentarians said all private schools have to operate in accordance with rules and regulations.
Parents’ representatives also spoke at the meeting, saying that Peira is responsible for ensuring that the fee vouches for the upcoming month are in accordance with the fees from 2017.
“We have high hopes that Peira will protect the rights of parents. In case it cannot enforce its rules, this authority should be abolished,” a parent said.
Acting Peira Chairman Syed Umair Javed assured the committee that the authority would implement its directives and take steps to improve the authority’s performance.
During the meeting, Ministry of Federal Education Additional Secretary Mohammad Saleem Ahmed Ranjha admitted that Peira needs to improve and assured the committee he would play his role in this regard.
He said that after mapping all of the capital’s private schools, Peria will upload these details on its website.
Parliamentary Secretary on Education Wajiha Akram briefed the committee on the ministry’s initiatives to improve the education sector.
Speaking earlier, Mr Awan said many students in the capital have had difficulty gaining admission into public sector schools and colleges.
He said it is a good initiative to enrol out-of-school children in schools, but the Federal Directorate of Education should also take care of students who have been trying to gain admission in various institutions, particularly model colleges.
Later, during a National Assembly session on Monday, Mr Awan and MNA Khurram Nawaz also moved a calling attention notice inviting the minister of federal education’s attention to this matter.
In response, Ms Akram told the house that students are admitted to institutions based on merit, but some institutions have capacity issues.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019