PESHAWAR: More than half of the out of school children enrolled by the provincial government in private schools on its expenses have again quit education owing to non-payment of their fee for the last two years, according to official sources.
The provincial government has been supporting the poor out of school children under Iqra Faroghe Taleem Voucher Scheme since April 2015.
The scheme is being executed through Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation.
Since the start of the voucher scheme, 79,000 out of school children were enrolled in private schools across the province. However, sources said, their number was reduced to 34,000 during the last two years after the foundation stopped payment of their monthly fee.
Govt has not paid their fee to private schools during the last two years
They said that reduction in the enrolment of students was noticed in the physical verification of each and every student carried out by the foundation recently.
Instead of releasing payment to the private schools, the foundation has surrendered around Rs3 billion to the finance department during the last two financial years. “Similarly, the foundation has also failed to launch campaign for the enrolment of another 125,000 out of school children because of the NAB inquiry and non-payment to the private schools,” said sources.
They said that currently, 2.1 million school age children were out of the school. The foundation stopped releasing monthly fees to the schools since January 2018 when the National Accountability Bureau and Provincial Inspection Team launched inquiries into irregularities in the voucher scheme, initially unearthed in Mansehra district.
Sources said that NAB inquiry was still underway while PIT in its report directed the foundation to register FIRs against six schools that were not fulfilling criteria but were included in the voucher scheme.
A senior official of the foundation, when contacted, said the voucher scheme was defamed by the previous administration of the foundation.
“Now the current administration has decided to start releasing monthly fee to the private schools from next month,” he said. He added that new enrolment of out of school children would also be started from the next academic year.
The official said that the owners of private schools lost trust in the foundation owing to non-payment of fee to them during the last two years. “We are also making efforts to restore the trust of the private schools and in this connection we would take different associations of the private schools into confidence,” he added.
The official said that the current administration had also decided to release funds to the private schools soon after the completion of NAB inquiry.
It is pertinent to mention here that under the voucher scheme, the government has taken the responsibility of enrolling out of-school children in private schools in the areas where no government school exists within 1.5 kilometres.
The voucher scheme has been launched to help the poor parents, who don’t have access to government schools and can’t afford the expenses of private schools.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Free Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act, 2017, binds the government to provide free and compulsory education to the children up to 16 years of age.
Under the scheme, EFF pays Rs500 to the private schools through vouchers as tuition fee for each primary student, Rs600 for the students from grades VI to VIII and Rs800 for 9th and 10th graders. In addition, the students get Rs2,500 each to purchase uniform and stationery.
The foundation has signed agreements with 1,036 private schools in the province for the enrolment of out of school children.
Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2019