PESHAWAR: The private schools are fleecing the parents of students by charging heavy fees despite the closure of educational institutions from time to time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government and the private schools regulatory authority have been unable to act as true regulator.
According to statistics available on the official website of the Private Schools Regulatory Authority (PSRA), the total number of registered private schools in the province stood at 8,893.
A large number of schools, which are not registered with the authority, are not included in the figure.
Some 1,710 among them are primary, 3242 are middle, are 2,855 and 1,097 are higher secondary schools.
More than 6,000 private schools are charging fee between Rs500 to 2,000 per month and they are normal schools.
Majority of these schools were unable to collect fee from the students during the closure of these institutions due to Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 500 among them had to close schools permanently because they were unable to pay the rents of buildings and pay salaries to staff.
The remaining ones were affected by the long wave of the pandemic.
The teachers and owners of these schools had to launch a protest drive, prompting the government to form a committee and look into the issue.
The committee under managing director of Elementary and Secondary Education Foundation Zariful Maani submitted its recommendations to the government suggesting that the decision of closing educational institutions should be localized at the district level, students and teachers should be vaccinated, and other necessary arrangements should be taken to avert the spread of the disease.
The committee had also suggested that the government should support parents in depositing fee.
Thus, the schools were gradually reopened and the stakeholders heaved a sigh of relief. The schools that have been charging fee more than Rs2,000 were the least affected by the closure.
Majority of them used the long closure as an opportunity to mint more money as their expenses shrank and they continued to charge rather over-charge the students.
The PSRA data showed that nearly 2,000 schools collected up to Rs 6,000 monthly fee, while over 1,000 private schools collected Rs10,000 fee a month.
The schools that charge fee of Rs15,000 per month are two dozen. Nearly 20 schools in the province are collecting Rs20,000 fee per month. Three schools in the province collected Rs25,000 as monthly tuition fee, while one each institution charge Rs35,000 and Rs45,000 each.
There are the institutions that are referred to as ‘mafia schools’. They have established their monopoly. The parents are forced to deposit their fees in time for the fear that the children may not be struck off from the schools.
Such schools include the Beacon House, City Schools, Roots, Bloomfield School, Quaid-e-Azam Schools, Frontier Children Academy and others.
Parents of the students of Peshawar Model School complained that the fee of their children was increased three times during the current academic session.
“My children are studying in Peshawar Model School. Their fee has been increased by Rs500 a few months back. Two months later another Rs500 increase was made. This month the transport charges were hiked by Rs250,” said a parent.
He said the parents, too, have been affected by the pandemic. These schools, instead of giving them some concessions, have been overcharging them, he added.
The Quaid-e-Azam School collected fee from students before the recently held grade 9 examinations along with Rs20,000 per student as hostel/preparation charges, though the hostels were closed and extra classes in the name of preparation could not be held due to pandemic.
No student in any of these schools was allowed to appear in the examination without clearing the outstanding dues.
“I deposited Rs38,000 as monthly tuition fee and preparation charges for my son a day before the examination and on the day of his last paper he was given another voucher of Rs28,000 to be deposited before the commencement of his classes,” said a concerned father, whose son is studying in Quaid-e-Azam School, which is owned by the National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser.
Also, the government had announced 20 percent rebate in the fee during the first wave of the corona pandemic.
Most of the schools did not give any such concession to the parents. After that the government avoided announcing any concession to parents during the three subsequent rounds of the pandemic.
It is the duty of the government and the PSRA to thoroughly analyse the situation, mitigate the miseries of the parents and announce some relief for the parents or at least the schools should be made to stop overcharging the parents, who, too, have been badly affected by the pandemic.