Is the private schools mafia above the law?
By Daud Jan
The Pakistani education system whether private or governmental has always been the epicentre of critiques. On one hand, due to the emergence of private schools system in Pakistan education has become one of the most profitable businesses and booming industry in the country, while on the other hand, the standard of education is further deteriorated day by day. The private schools’ mafia (PS) is following up their own created rules, regulations and laws that are diverse from other private schools. Furthermore, it seems to be the government of Pakistan’s or the Private Schools Regulatory Authority’s (PSRA) created laws, regulations and rules are only for the government schools and are nonexistent or nonbinding on some PS mafia.
In the current times, all over the country, a new trend of multi-business private schools system under the same roof of school has emerged. In the past, the PS mafia had only sold education but, in the present times their business has been extended and along with education (no matter standard or substandard), other necessities of life are also sold mandatory to students under the same roof. For instance, if a student of any age is promoted to new class, the student must buy the textbooks from the same school at the price the school demand otherwise, the textbooks are not available in the open market. Besides, the students have to buy their uniform and shoes, etc from the selected stores of schools, where the schools supply the stock from their source otherwise the uniform cannot be found anywhere else in the whole country. It is necessary, to mention here that some private schools have their saloons and the students of the schools are only allowed cutting hair in the school’s salon only. Nevertheless, PS mafia has adapted unique techniques for minting money from the parents.
Keeping in view the above-stated facts and the unjust behavior of some PS mafia Mr. Amjad Ali Khan Marwat Advocate, the then President of the District Peshawar Bar Association, in the year 2017, on behalf of the parents had filed a writ petition in the Peshawar High Court Peshawar (PHCP) against the PS mafia and Government of KPK. Initially, the Petition was decided in favour of the Peshawar DBA. The Court in its judgment issued several directives to PSRA for regulating the affairs of private educational institutions under the KPPSRA, Act 2017. In the light of the court’s judgment, the PSRA approved the required regulations and on Feb 19 had subsequently issued a circular to private schools for compliance of the said regulations. The regulations provide that the institutions shall not charge more than half of the tuition fee from next of kin. The PSRA had also directed schools to charge only 50% of the tuition fee during the vacations of more than 30 days. It had ruled that there would be a complete ban on charging students for transport charges during vacations. Furthermore, the bench had also ruled in the previous judgment that tuition fee shall not be increased more than 3% annually. However, the PS mafia filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the judgment of Chief Justice of PHC. The PHC’s Judgment was set-aside and the case was remanded back to the PHCP for deciding it under the law dealing with private schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Additionally, the apex court also issued directions to allow time to any other parties interested including schools managements and parents to approach the court if they want to become a party in the instant writ petition. Following the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan the KPPSRA on dated 21-02-2019 issued a circular according to which all the private schools in the province of KPK were bound to reduce the monthly fee by 20%, the schools were allowed to only increase the annual fee 5% to 8% but, those schools who want to increase the annual fee more than 5% must seek permission from the KPPSRA. In addition, the private schools were also directed not to charge more than 50% fee in the summer vacations.
Moreover, it is also important to mention here, that the PS mafia in Pakistan and in particular in Peshawar, KPK not only boldly violates the KPPSRA’s ACT, 2017 but, also undermines the orders of the PHC and, the Apex court which comes under the contempt of court. According to, the circulars issued by the KPPRSA in view of the directions of the Apex court, the Private schools can only make an increase 5% in the annual fee but, in reality the PS mafia increase more than the approved percentage by the PSRA, ACT, which is not only unjust but also illegal and against the PSRA ACT. Also, according to section 8 sub-section (j) of chapter-II of the KPPSRA ACT, the private schools should constitute a district scrutiny committee from time to time with the consultation of government but this mafia does not. Despite the notifications issued by the KPPSRA on 29th and 30th of June 2019 preventing the Private schools mafia from demanding the summer vacation’s fee from the students till the further orders by the KPPSRA, but even then the undeterred PS mafia is demanding a huge amount in the name of summer vacation’s fee which clearly shows the influential private schools mafia is above the law. Moreover, according, to section 22 subsection (2) of chapter-V of the KPPSRA ACT, 2017, if any rule or regulations of the above-mentioned ACT, is violated by the private school they will be fined or in worst case scenario the school may be sealed, but till now no action has been taken against the PS mafia and the helpless KPPSRA and other government departments have become the silent spectators.
All in all, the private schools’ mafia all over the country is still busy minting money from the parents. The private schools’ mafia has no concern with the future of the children but increasing the monthly fee annually more than the authorized percentage by the Apex Court in its Judgment and the PSRA, ACT. The schools’ mafia is also pressurizing the parents to submit the summer vacations fee in full despite the multiple circles issued by the PSRA the private schools’ mafia is not complying and not only disregarding the orders of the superior courts but also denying to follow the PSRA rules and regulations. The Chief Justice of Pakistan is requested to take strict actions against those Private schools mafia who consider themselves above the law and disregard the orders of the Apex courts.
The writer is a advocate High court Peshawar.