State not serious about handling private education fee issue: CJP

ISLAMABAD     -     At least 61 per cent children in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, being ruled by PTI, are out of schools and, interestingly, the private sector is encouraged to establish schools under the government’s New Schools Initiative, the official data of provincial Elementary and Secondary Education reveals.

According to the data, the out-of-school census was conducted in 2017 to determine the ratio of out-of-school children.  The data compiled by KP’s Secretary Elementary and Secondary Education states that the reasons identified for Out-of-School children, besides others, mainly were lack of interest, poverty and distance/transport.

The steps, taken towards Article 25 (A) – Right to Education, by the provincial government are compiled to submit before the three-judge bench of Supreme Court hearing different appeals against high courts’ orders, miscellaneous applications and review petitions by private schools regarding fees increase.

At least 26 percent children are Out-of-School due to the lack of interest while 24 percent children are out of school due to poverty and 11 percent children are out of school due to distance and lack of transportation facility.

However, the PTI-led provincial government’s next five-year priority is introduction of educational schemes and enrolment of 400,000 children in schools.

On April 9, the top court had issued notices to federal and provincial governments with the directions to submit their response as to the fulfilment of the obligations under Article 25 (A).

Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousafzai will appear before the bench to canvass the performance of KP government.

The table of the data stated that the enrollment campaign is carried out twice a year in the month of April and September. “This year the target is to enrol 800,000 out of school children,” the document stated.

The PTI-led KP government has also take steps for girls community schools. It is stated that these community schools are established where there is no girls’ primary schools within 1 km radius. Textbooks, salary and furniture are provided by the government to community schools and ratio of one teacher for forty students is maintained. Rs. 15,000 salary is given to teachers.  “So far 2201 girls community schools have been established with 123,000 students enrolled.”

Under the initiative of Education Voucher Schemes, vouchers are provided to private schools where there is no government school facility within the radius of 1km. The vouchers are also provided to out of school children in these areas and presently 92,000 students are benefiting under the schemes. The vouchers provided to children and parents include tuition fees, shoes, uniform and books.

Interestingly, under the New Schools Initiative, private sector is encouraged to establish schools where there is neither a government nor a private schooling available, the document stated.

“Advertisement is given in the newspapers inviting interested individuals/ schools to establish school facility in the area. At the moment, 3,000 students have been enrolled under this initiative.”

The KP’s Provincial Assembly also passed a legislation namely Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Free Compulsory Primary and Secondary Education Act 2017 to provide free compulsory primary and secondary education in the province.

The parents, who fail to cause their child to attend the school, on conviction before a Judicial Magistrate, be punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to one month or fine which may extend to hundred rupees for every day after the conviction.

The Authority may also be permitted to establish Taleem Fund, which shall consist of grants made by the Federal, Provincial and District governments, voluntary contribution from philanthropist, alumni, students and parents.   

Meanwhile, Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khan Khosa heading a three-judge bench on Monday took up the case regarding increase in fees by private schools and once again lamented that the problem is that the State is not doing its job. He further observed that there should be choice. The three-judge bench heard the arguments of Advocate Faisal Siddiqui, on behalf of parents, to determine the regulation of business or trade under Article 18 of the Constitution include reasonable restrictions and if the reasonable restrictions do include then whether the 5% annual increase in schools fees is reasonable.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Khosa also quoted the instance of travelling in expensive airlines and said that the difference of fare is nearly Rs.0.1 million. “Whether any one forced them (travellers) to travel in expensive airline,” he asked while explaining about the concept of choice.

Justice Faisal Arab, member of the bench observed that even in private schools there is more choice. He questioned what if a person gets his child admitted in a school which charges Rs. 60,000 per month and then challenges the fee on the grounds that another school is charging Rs. 20,000 per month.

“Tomorrow you will challenge the fare of Qatar Airline that it is not charging the fare as that of Etihad Airline,” remarked the chief justice.

Justice Arab also expressed wonder that doctors also want decrease in school fees but they are not decreasing fees to facilitate patients in their clinics. In single building, two different doctors charge different fees, he further added.  Regarding 5 percent increase in annual fee, Chief Justice Khosa observed that the aspect of teachers salary should also be taken care of and when fee is increased it must entail with the salary of teachers.   Justice Ijazul Ahsan, another member of the bench, observed that this issue has to be seen with Article 25-A. The matter has been adjourned for today .

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