Reprieve for students

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IN a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday struck down any increase in the fee structure of private schools after January 2017. In its detailed verdict in the case related to fee structure of private educational institutions, the apex court ruled that it will be deemed as if there has been no increase in the fee since 2017 and that it is frozen at the rate prevailing in January 2017.
This will prove to be a major relief to students and their parents as according to reports private educational institutions raised fee significantly since 2017 despite hue and cry by the general public. However, much depends on actual implementation of the guidelines given by the court in respect of re-calculation of any future increase. As per directives of the court, the calculation of school fee in Punjab and Sindh will be done in accordance with the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2017 and the Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2005, respectively and the process of re-calculation will be supervised by regulators. Regulators have been there but they miserably failed in the past to safeguard interests of students, parents and teachers and there are allegations that they do not perform their responsibilities vigilantly or honestly. It is because of this that despite intervention by the judiciary and clear instructions about fee reduction, there was no relief for students as educational institutions charged additional amount on different excuses and parents are forced to pay fearing expulsion of their children from these institutions. There is no doubt that some of the private school chains and institutions are contributing immensely to the cause of education and are imparting quality knowledge to students but the real problem lies in running these institutions on purely commercial considerations. The worst aspect of the entire episode is that teachers, who are generally highly qualified and trained, are paid negligibly in the name of salary. There are also instances where hefty fee is charged but unqualified and untrained teachers have been hired on meagre remunerations. The apex court has tried to sensitize the federal and provincial governments to feel for the general public and take remedial steps to streamline the pathetic situation and it is to be seen what happens with these directions and recommendations.