Private schools to challenge orders for reduction in tuition fees amid virus outbreak

All Sindh Private Schools Association representative Haider Ali on Wednesday said that the association would challenge in court a directive of the Sindh government that asked private schools across the province to grant a 20% concession in tuition fees to students in the wake of the coronavirus crisis that has forced the closure of schools.

On the directives of Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani, the Directorate of Inspection and Registration of Private Institutions Sindh (Dirpis) on Tuesday made it mandatory for all private schools to grant a 20% concession in tuition fee for the months of April and May. 

The education minister has taken this decision in order to provide financial assistance to the parents affected by the lockdown in the current coronavirus pandemic, a statement said. In his statement, the minister said no private school would terminate the services of the teaching and nonteaching staffers during the lockdown while the administrators were bound to pay full salaries to all staffers.

Ali, said that private schools in the province were already charging a reduced rate. “Private schools in Sindh teach approximately 3.3 million students. They are already charging a reduced fee, they cannot reduce it more,” he said.  “We will challenge the government order that stipulates schools offer a 20% reduction in fees,” he said. 

Kashif Mirza, the chief of the All Pakistan Private Schools Association, has also rejected the government order. He also spoke to Geo Pakistan on Wednesday. “We will petition the court against the orders asking schools to reduce tuition fees by 20%,” he said.

‘Orders may be strictly complied’

The circular issued by Dirpis on Tuesday reads: “This may be strictly complied in letter and spirit. In case the parents have any compliant regarding noncompliance of the directive issued by Dirpis, they may register complaints in the complaint cell of the directorate.”

Similarly, the teaching and nonteaching staffers working in privately-managed schools could also lodge complaints against the school owners if their salaries were not being paid during the closures of schools.

Compensation for parents who have paid fee already

Commenting about the circular, Dirpis registrar Rafia Javed told The News that those parents who had already paid full fee in advance for the months of April and May, the schools administrator are bound to adjust 20 per cent of the paid amount in tuition fee in the coming months.

She said Dirpis officials would ensure the implementation of the government orders. “If any of the private schools violated the government’s orders, a strict action will be taken against the school administrators. They may face suspension of the school registration certificates and a complete ban.”

Earlier this week, Dirpis had issued SOPs for the opening of admin offices of the private schools. According to them: “It is mandatory for the private schools to grant concession in the tuition fee to students in order to provide financial relief to parents affected by the current lockdown.”

Resistance to government orders

On the other hand, the private school associations announced they would resist the government’s order. The All Pakistan Private Schools Federation’s Sindh chapter president, Sharaf uz Zaman Siddiqui, said the private schools were already facing financial crisis because of the sudden school closures.

“We [the private school owners] are facing the same crisis being faced by the other people during this lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic has created the same difficulties for private the school owners too,” he said.

He said the apex court in 2018 had ordered that those schools which charged over five thousand rupees as the monthly fee were bound to give 20 per cent concession, while the parents would pay only one-month fee during the two-month summer vacations.

“It is clear that the apex court verdict was only for those schools which charge more than five thousand rupees monthly. The low-fee schools were not included in that verdict.”

He said the Sindh government wanted to implement those orders even on the low-fee schools which were already facing financial crisis. “The provincial government wants to facilitate parents with the finance of private schools, but the Sindh government has taken no steps to facilitate the parents whose children are enrolled in state-run schools,” he said.

He said all private schools associations had called an urgent meeting on Wednesday (today) in which the new orders of the education minister would be discussed. “We are very clear. We will resist against the new orders regarding the 20 per cent concession in intuition fee. We will challenge this notification in the court,” said.

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