PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Wednesday summoned Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Private School Regulatory Authority’s managing director in a petition filed by parents of several students, seeking concession in tuition fee of different private schools during continuation of Covid-19 pandemic.
The bench of acting PHC Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mahfooz directed that the PSRA managing director should appear in person on Thursday (today) and respond to the prayers made by the petitioners.
The petition is filed by Iftikhar Hussain and 13 others, requesting the court to direct PSRA to bind all the private educational institutions to charge only the operational cost of their institutions instead of charging full tuition fee during closure of schools due to the pandemic.
The petitioners also request the court to order the government to reduce the tuition fee by making arrangements from National Disaster Management Fund (NDMF) or Provincial Disaster Management Fund (PDMF).
The present petition was filed during closure of educational institutions in the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic in the country and during its pendency the government again notified closure of schools from Nov 26.
Advocate Zahidullah Zahid appeared for the petitioners and contended that the ongoing Cpovid-19 pandemic had baldy affected the world economy and Pakistan was not an exception.
He stated that the pandemic had left billions of people jobless across the world hence the low income group was facing threat of starvation and was not in a position to pay tuition fee of students.
He claimed that in Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the government stopped schools from receiving fees during the lockdown. He added that like other countries in the world, citizens of Pakistan were also facing lockdown that resulted in halting of economic activities.
The counsel claimed that in order to tackle with the ongoing pandemic in the country, the international community including International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank and many other financial institutions had extended financial assistance in terms of grants, loans, etc that by operation of law were part and parcel of NDMF and PDMF and must be utilised for easing sufferings of students belonging to lower and middle classes of the society.
He stated that the government had notified closure of educational institutions during the pandemic as summer vacations in March. He added that despite closure of schools for many months, the managements of different schools continued receiving tuition fee from students.
Mr Zahid contended that the schools should only be charging their operational costs including staff salaries, utility bills and rent, if the institutions were functioning in rented building, instead of complete tuition fee.
He stated that although the provincial government had announced a 20 per cent and 10 per cent conditional fee concession for different categories of fee structures, yet that was only for three months.
The counsel said that they had been facing extra ordinary situation and in such situation the government including PSRA should be taking extra ordinary steps to help the affected students and parents in terms of payment of school fees.
He claimed that the school owners were earning profit in such a grave situation.
The bench observed that it would be appropriate that the PSRA managing director should appear and explain the steps taken by it in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic for providing relief to the students and their parents.
Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020