Students, parents suffer as authorities remain indifferent to demands of time —1

Salahuddin Haider

Education at primary and school level, which is fundamental to nation-building has been suffering since long, and now that schools and higher education directorates have adopted an indifferent attitude, parents and students have both become victim of deliberate neglect, so to say.
These are not insinuations as some may try to portray, but fare but bare, naked, bitter facts. Karachi and the rest of Sindh, like in all other provinces, directorates and secondary boards set up to guard against malpractices by those engaged in commercializing education, caring least for falling standards, themselves have become pawns in the hands of exploiters
Attempts to draw their attention or seek their viewpoints on a critical issue, have either been shunned, or paid scant attention, which can only be categorized as tragic. Hundreds and thousands of students, parents, approaching this scribe for months together, have now begun to knock at the doors of justice for the sake of future of their wards, which is enormously, least to say, has been at stake.
Below are some of the facts collected from frustrated parents, who, after in sheer frustration, have formed their own association and have been engaged, somewhat disappointingly, to look for remedies so that the coming generations, generally considered as builders of tomorrow, are taken care of.
Their findings make interesting reading, which are:a) —All Private Schools in Sindh are governed by “The Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Ordinance, 2001” and “The Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation & Control) Rules, 2005”? )— All Private Schools in Sindh cannot increase fee more than 5% per annum and that too with prior approval of the government regulatory authority, c)—All Private Schools in Sindh cannot increase fee during an academic year, d)- All Private Schools in Sindh cannot charge admission fee in excess of three months tuition fee, e) —All Private Schools in Sindh are bound to pay salary to a full time teacher (with one year continuous service) at least equivalent to four times of the monthly tuition fee of the highest class charged by schools, f)— All Private Schools in Sindh are bound to award meritorious scholarships to at least 10% of school’s total strength, g)—Ignorance of these regulations on the part of parents over the years has enabled private schools to increase fees the way they want. The exponential increase in fee year after year has brought parents to a point where it has become unaffordable for them to provide education to their children.
A member of the ASPA explained on being contacted that they were constrained to look for a platform for collective fight against exploitation by schools, indifference from regulatory bodies, which are also statutory in character, and to protect the interest of parents, feeling insecure, and worried for their children. Its purpose, apart from careating awareness among parents regarding applicable laws and regulations,is also to ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are implemened.Other objectives are to create a common platform for all parents residing in Sindh from where their collective problems can be taken up at appropriate forums, work towards areas of common interest of parents, make efforts to improve standard of education, particularly in public sector schools, and to put Sindh Government in a place where they will work for the betterment of the quality of education of Government Schools so that parents will feel free to send their children to Government Schools.
The organisation has been working hectically to educate parents by asking them to become its members, so that advantages for them could accrue as immediate response by core committee on any relevant issues The campaign from a humble beginning, has developed into a meaningful platform, results are produced below Parents started the campaign in 2015 after receiving 20-25% enhanced fee vouchers from different schools.
Schools were of the opinion that if parents cannot afford, they should change the school.
After failed table talks, parents approached SHC in October 2015 and filed several petitions (5812/2015 and others) against the unjustified fee hike of private schools.
School had also filed a petition challenged the law being ultra vires. On 17 February 2016, The SHC reserved its order. SHC then issued a note that their attention has been withdrawn towards 3 petitions which were filed at SHC in 2005 in which the same law was challenged and those petitions are currently pending in review. Further, that before deciding the parents’ petitions, those review petitions are required to be decided by the bench where these old petitions are pending.
In around August / September, one school approached SC requesting them to direct SHC to decide the matter as soon as possible. SC passed directions to SHC to decide the matter within one month. On the orders of SC, the SHC asked the counsels of old petitions what if they decide the present petitions now and the review petitions will be decided separately to which the said counsels agreed. 7th October 2016, SHC allowed parents’ petitions and dismiss schools petition which was filed in 2015 challenging the existing law on ultra vires grounds.Schools filed appeal in SC against SHC orders dated 7th October 2016. SC remanded back all petitions to SHC ordering them to decide the old petitions first; and then decide the latest petitions in light of the judgment of the old petitions with further directions that the stay order passed by the SHC initially will remain status quo and schools cannot take any action against the interest of children and that these petitions should be heard on daily basis to decide them preferable before summer vacations. Now, the petitions have been heard partly and the arguments of the lawyers of Schools are in process.
Somehow, and we take it as a miracle that we have taken the bar to fight for the rights of parents not only to make education affordable for them but also for the rule of the law. We need support of all parents and stake holders, political parties and media to play their due role for the betterment of education in Sindh so as for Pakistan.
—To be continued

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