By Uzma Zafar
ISLAMABAD: Federal government Monday notified a 20 percent fee concession for closed Islamabad education institutes for the month of April and onwards in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking to Twitter, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood shared a notification regarding a 20 percent fee concession during the closure of private educational institutes during the third wave of the pandemic. The notification directed the educational institutes to provide fee concession from April till their reopening. However, the notification shared by Shafqat Mahmood read that it would not be applicable to educational institutes charging a monthly fee of less than Rs8000.
During the previous COVID wave, Shafqat Mehmood in September 2020 said that private schools collecting above Rs5000 monthly tuition fees have been directed to give 20 percent concession in school fees for the first six months after the resumption of educational activities. Besides the federal government, the provincial governments have also reduced school fees during the previous wave of the pandemic in the country.
Last year, Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) had notified a 20pc fee reduction for schools charging more than Rs5,000 per month. Later, another notification for fee reduction was issued to be effective till the opening of schools on Sept 15. But when schools were reopened and then closed again, Peira issued no new notification, meaning from Sept 15 last year parents have been paying full fee.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, job opportunities saw a decline, many parents have become jobless and many face cuts in salaries, but they are forced to pay full fee. This is unfortunate the regulatory body has failed to protect the rights of parents,” said Hamid Khan, who represents a group of parents who have been raising their voice on social media against full fees being charged by private schools.
“Peira is hands in glove with private schools, as last year through a notification they only directed the schools charging more than Rs5,000 per month, excluding majority of schools which charge less than that amount,” he said and added that the 20pc reduction was also not fully implemented by private schools. He said during Covid-19 the business of private schools flourished as they collected full fee during closure of educational institutions. “While parents, besides paying fees, also face extra burden of purchasing computers etc for their kids for online education,” he said, adding the Supreme Court in 2019 had directed schools to make recalculations using the fee prevailing in 2017 as the base fee with an annual 5pc increase.
However, he said parents in Islamabad are yet to benefit from this verdict as private schools are charging fees without any involvement from Peira, which is the regulatory body bound to determine the fee of private schools.
When contacted, Zafar Yousafzai, a spokesperson for Peira, rejected the allegation being levelled by parents. He said a proposal was under consideration for reduction in fee of private schools during the pandemic. “Hopefully, this week we will issue a notification in this regard, as we did last year when we directed the schools charging more than Rs5,000 fee to give 20pc concessions,” he added.
Talking about the Supreme Court’s decision, he said private schools had challenged it before Islamabad High Court (IHC), which decided that even though the Supreme Court’s verdict is not directly applicable in Islamabad Peira could get guidance from it to determine the fees.