Higher education sector lacks priority

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Salahuddin Haider

Education is a high priority sector for any society, for knowledge is the key to progress of a country. But Pakistan unfortunately seems oblivious of its importance.Government, policy makers, high officials, are yet to pay it the attention that it deserved. Half hearted measures, taken from time to time, hardly bears fruit., and today controversies have been raging over the system of education in the country. Parents are worries about the future of their wards. If government schools are suffering from neglect, illogical syllabi, and poor teaching systems, private schools, sprouting like mushroom, have turned a noble cause into trade, and seen hell-bent on profiteering from it.
Recently, the former education minister Nisar Khuhro announced a ten percent rise in tuition fee for schools. His announcement lacked legal sanction, for he never consulted cabinet nor gave it a legal authority. The current law authorizes 5 percent annual rise in schools fee for students, but the school owners refuse to accept that, and have even rejected the 8 percent rise offer, demanding 15 to 17 percent rise per annum
Looking at the background, it would be clear that in September 2015, the parents of children who were studying in private schools started an awareness campaign against the unlawful fee hike in tuition fee in Sindh. There has been a law in Sindh since 2001 namely “Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulations and Control) Ordinance, 2001” and “Sindh Private Education Institutions (Regulations and Control) Rules, 2002”. The parents filed several petitions seeking orders against the Directorate of Education for not taking up their responsibility properly as well as against schools who are raising tuition fee well over 5% annually.
On the other hand, schools have also filed petitions regarding schools? right to such a hike; questioning the mechanism provided by the provincial government for regulating such fee increases.
After some 14th months, the Sindh High Court has decided the petitions whereby the petitions filed by Schools are dismissed on the ground that “the grievance of the schools in not on the mechanism of such increase, rather it is on the quantum (5%) of such increase ……. ”. Whereas petitions filed by the parents are allowed on the grounds that “the fact that private schools are not following the said mechanism and there is no compulsion on these to do so from the Department”. The Chief Justice of Honorable Sindh High Court ordered the Directorate of Education to “Department to strictly act in accordance with law and to ensure compliance of the rules and regulations and submit quarterly reports to this court in respect of such audit and 5% rule.” Furthermore, the petitions filed by parents/students are thus allowed in the term that respondent schools shall only increase tuition fees no more than 5% per annum from the date of their registration for three years and in case there has been no re-registration after the said period of three years, fees shall not be increased unless school re-registers itself”.
Despite the clear orders of the Sindh High Court, the Schools continue to issue their fee vouchers at enhanced rates well above 5% / annum. Schools are neither following order of Sindh High Court nor the Director Education is taking any action despite a notice served to him. The most bitter part of the story is the shameful attitude of the schools towards the children whose parents were petitioners. They are treating them like untouchables. In the court order it has been stated that:
“Per counsel, such students are treated as ‘untouchables’ and they are not encouraged to participate in any extracurricular activities arranged in or outside the school, as well as, their names are not forwarded for and citywide, inter-provincial or international events and competitions. Relying on the statement submitted by the said school, where details of the number of students in various classrooms have been provided, the counsel led us to traverse the same to reach to a shocking finding that out of over a dozen of classes only 24 contesting students have been placed along with the large number of contesting children”.
Instead of giving up discriminatory attitude after the orders and shocking finding the of Sindh High Court, the school has increased it and recently, the victims children were not taken to the field trips with other children and left behind in School during the last week. This is something against the law, against the orders of the Honourable Sindh High Court, against the ethics and against the human rights. The more shocking part is this has been done by a school which is supposed to teach the good norms and ethics to the children. This has been an appeal to all to raise their voice against such illegal and shameful act.

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