Sindh High Court (SHC) has declared that private schools fee should not be increased beyond 5% per year.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, strictly ordered the provincial educational department to abide by the law. The court also issued a warning to the department to submit quarterly reports — which will assess the private school’s audit and ensure the implementation of 5% rule.
SHC took note of last month’s protest across the country. The parents challenged the private sector schools, raising voices against their exorbitant fee hikes.
Along with parents taking charge against the situation, a petition was officially lodged by 300 students of North Nazimabad campus of The Generations School Private Limited. They pointed out the fact that the rise in fees was in clear violation of Sindh Private Educational Institutions (Regulation and Control) Ordinances of 2003 and 2015. The fee structure must have approval of the government, according to section six of the law.
In the recent past, the private schools hiked their fees by 15% to 20%. The court also took that into consideration and labelled it as illegal and unjustified.
In his judgment, Justice Sajjad noted that,
“With the increase ultra vires of sub rule 7(3) as stated in the foregoing, the grievance of schools is not on the mechanism of such increase, rather it is on the quantum of 5% of such increase, thus the question is about determination of this percentile, which requires taking into consideration many factors like cost of doing business, minimum payable salaries, taxes and cost of utilities, etc…requiring the consideration of facts and taking of evidence, which is beyond the scope of the writ jurisdiction as being agitated by private schools in the present petitions.”
Hence, the bench issued the statement “as such no illegality had been shown that the above sub-rule is inherently in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, thus such petitions of schools are dismissed.”
The SHC order further reads that “…private schools are not following said mechanism and there is no compulsion on them to do so from the [education] department.”
The court also took serious note of the response from the education department.
“It is painful to note that no statement has been provided by the department as to the receipt of each year’s audited account report from the private schools and its enforcement of the restricted 5% increase of tuition fee.”
The bench also allowed the petitions filed by parents or students “in the term that the respondent schools shall only increase tuition fee no more than 5% per annum from the date of their re-registration for three years and in case there has been no registration after the said period of three years fee shall not be increased unless the school registers itself.”
This can be seen as a sign of victory by the parents and the students. This will financially help out a lot of families which, previously, had been deprived of privatized education for their children due to obscene fees.