PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to respond to three petitions seeking tuition fee concession for private school students during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Syed M Attique Shah fixed April 8 for hearing final arguments on the petitions filed by Iftikhar Hussain and several other parents of private school students seeking directions for the Private Schools Regulatory Authority (PSRA) to ask all private educational institutions to charge only their ‘operational costs’ instead of full tuition fee during the pandemic.
The petitioners have also requested the court to order the government to make arrangements for the payment of tuition fee of deserving students from the National Disaster Management Fund (NDMF) or Provincial Disaster Management Fund (PDMF).
One of the petitions was filed during the closure of educational institutions last year in the first wave of Covid-19 in the country. The government had again notified the campus closures from Nov 26 and announced their reopening in Jan-Feb 2021.
Zahidullah Zahid, Alamzeb Khan and other lawyers for the petitioners said despite clear orders issued by the high court and PSRA for private schools against harassing parents for the payment of outstanding fee, some educational institutions had constantly been pestering parents by demanding the lump sum payment of fee instead of installments.
Parents call for relief during ongoing pandemic
They claimed that several schools had arbitrarily increased tuition fee though the PSRA had issued orders to them against increasing it during the pandemic and that they had been demanding annual fee and admission fee.
Advocate Fida Gul appeared for some private schools and said several parents were reluctant to pay the outstanding fee of their children pending for last many months.
He said parents had been misusing the earlier order of the high court and had not been paying fees.
Zahidullah said although the order of the high court and decision of the PSRA were also highlighted on social media, schools had still not been following it.
He contended that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic had baldy affected the world economy and Pakistan was no exception to it.
The lawyer said the pandemic had left billions of people jobless across the world and therefore, the low-income group of citizens faced the threat of starvation and not in a position to pay tuition fee of students.
He claimed that in order to tackle with the ongoing pandemic in the country, the international financial institutions, including IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, had extended financial assistance in terms of grants and loans, which, by the operation of the law, were part and parcel of the NDMF and PDMF and should be utilised for easing sufferings of students belonging to the lower and middle classes of society.
The lawyer said despite the closure of schools for many months, different schools continued collecting tuition fee from students.
Barrister Asadullah Mulk appeared for the PSRA and said in accordance with the directives issued by the high court, he had filed comments on the matter on behalf of his client.
The bench observed that it would hear final arguments in the matter on Apr 8 after going through those comments and in the meantime, the PDMA should file its comments.
Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2021