opefully, the issue of private schools fee has come to a satisfactory conclusion. The case pertaining to unjustified fee hike, dragged in courts since 2017, saw its detailed judgement by the Supreme Court in September 2019 that from now on private schools will charge the same monthly fee as was done in January 2017. A Supreme Court bench, consisting of Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab, said annual increase in fees is only allowed under the law/rules/regulations till 2019 and onwards. The verdict’s implementation will bring a sigh of relief to millions of parents reeling from economic downturn and private schools’ tendency to churn out cash from them on one pretext or another.
The verdict questioned the effectiveness of regularity bodies, saying private schools raised fees since June 2017 in violation of relevant laws/rules and without any check. Earlier, in June when summer vacations started, many schools hounded parents with fee challans for holiday months, against a Supreme Court of Pakistan’s interim verdict. Though parents in droves moved the Pakistan Citizen Portal and the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority in Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, not much difference was made.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Private Schools Regulatory Authority issued a vague circular to schools: “All private schools are strictly directed not to charge summer and winter vacation fee till further orders in the larger public interest.” It even failed to warn schools of action liable for penalties under KP-PSRA Act, 2017, and KP-PSRA Regulations, 2018 if they were found guilty of charging the extra fee. At the end of the day, the regulators have been found watching the interests of school owners and not parents.
The conclusion of the case highlights the slow disposal of public interest cases. An interim order of the case was passed on December 30, 2018 where the apex court ordered a 20 per cent cut in the fee structures of those educational institutions which were charging fees in excess of Rs5,000 per month. Initially, schools complied with the verdict.
Once the files gathered dust, the schools recovered the charges waived in the wake of the interim order. The detailed judgement of an interim order should ideally be issued soon for clarity. The good thing about the detailed judgement, however, is that it orders the recovery and adjustment of the overcharged fee since 2017 in accordance with provisions of laws of Punjab and Sindh. The verdict noted that the private educational services industry was a business. It is better for school owners to follow business ethics.