Undeterred, private schools charge summer vacation fees

KARACHI:03 April: Sindh’s 12,000 private schools are a law unto themselves, blatantly flouting government decrees and sometimes even court orders.

Despite the provincial government’s directives not to collect summer vacation fee for the months of June and July, many parents have been asked by their children’s schools to pay or else. Every year, the education minister and secretary issue circulars in the media, urging parents not to pay the fee and warning the private school managements against collecting it but their efforts produce no results.

“Three days ago, my children got their results. I received a message from the school to pay July’s fee in advance with the current month, otherwise my children’s result will be withheld,” said Noor Bano, a resident of Kashmir Colony. She said she had no other option but to pay the double fee.

“My three children are enrolled in a private school located in Defence View. I pay Rs2,500 to Rs2,700 per month for each child. It was difficult for us to arrange the double fee, but finally we borrowed the sum from relatives,” she explained, adding that most parents are incensed that the government has turned its back on implementation of its directives.

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A few years ago, the Sindh High Court directed these schools to refrain from such practices, but the school managements have turned a blind eye to these directives.

Zakaria, a father of two, said, “I have written to the complaint cells of Chief Minister House and the education department, but no one has responded yet.” He accused the private schools of working as a mafia under the patronage of government officials.

All Private School Management Association, Sindh Chairperson Khalid Shah defended his decision to charge the summer fee in advance. “No one takes us in confidence when making these decisions,” he said. “Where are we supposed to arrange teachers’ and other staff salaries as well as other expenses from if we can’t charge advance fee?” he asked, adding that schools remain closed in June and July, but teachers and other staff still have to be paid for both months.

“Most schools start renovation of their buildings in the summer vacation so we need money in advance for these costs,” he justified, adding that private schools have been facing multiple problems because parents do not pay fees on time. “Around 20% of the schools located in posh areas earn money by charging exorbitant fees. No one speaks against them,” he said.
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Not only is a summer fee being charged in advance, private schools also increase their tuition fee every year. Middle-class families are often unable to pay this exorbitant sum and many have challenged this in court, pleading that the yearly fee increase be capped at 5%. Last month, the high court ordered the education department to frame the rules to regulate the fee hike in 90 days. However, Shah said a 5% increase is ‘not possible’ due to inflation. “We have suggested that the government raise it to 10% a year,” he said.

The education minister and secretary could not be reached for comments, however, a spokesperson for the department said they have taken action against those schools that violated the government’s orders. “Let us identify the schools, we are ready for action,” he said.Express Turbuni.