COVID-19: Private schools cannot fire students over non-payment of fees, SHC

The Sindh High Court has made it clear that the schools cannot fire students not being able to pay their fee in the time of COVID-19. The schools have reportedly refused to pay salaries to the teachers. Is it going to lead to a chaotic situation?

education

The Sindh High Court (SHC) said on Thursday that private schools could not fire students over non-payment of fees during the coronavirus lockdown. This appears to be a controversial decision as the school won’t be able to pay salaries to teachers without getting a fee.

The Sindh government had made it mandatory for private schools to reduce their fees, but the court had suspended the government’s notification. At this, parents grew concerned that their children might be expelled from school, if they failed to pay the dues.

The provincial government again approached the court and requested clarification on the matter.

The court then said that school management could not expel students who were unable to pay their dues to the lockdown.

Read More: SHC bars private schools from charging parents anything except tuition fee

Sindh has been under lockdown since the last week of March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The restrictions have rendered hundreds of thousands of people without any means of income. The virus has claimed 200 lives in the province, with the number of known cases exceeding 12,000.

No increase in schools fee

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has struck down any increase in the fee structures of private schools after January 2017. According to details, it will be deemed as if there has been no increase in the fee since 2017 and that it is frozen at the rate prevailing in January 2017, says the verdict.

The SC bench which decided the case was headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa. Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan authored the verdict and Justice Faisal Arab wrote an additional note.

Justice Ahsan expressed concern over reports that private schools had excessively increased fees since 2017 and ordered that the fees would be recalculated in accordance with provisions of laws of Punjab and Sindh.

The judgment explains that the private educational services industry constitutes ‘business’ under Article 18 of the constitution which simply takes it like any commercial activity for the provision of services.

However, it says, as per the ordinary meaning of ‘trade’ which is basically buying and selling goods and services, the private educational services industry constitutes ‘trade’ and, therefore, can be subjected to regulation by a licensing system.

Read More: Private schools for the rich, public schools for the poor: In the land of pure

Though people have a right to conduct the business of educational services in order to earn money but such a right is not absolute or unfettered, the verdict says. By virtue of a licensing system, the state is empowered to regulate the exercise of such a right and hence, can impose certain restrictions, which includes the power to regulate and control prices.

Analysts believe that education is the right of every child and the state is responsible to ensure the quality education to all and sundry. In the case of Pakistan, education became a highly competitive business which deprived middle class and lower-middle-class parents of the opportunity to send their kids to good private school. As a matter of fact, public schools are not in good condition across the country due to misgovernance and lack of resources. Therefore, parents generally prefer to send their children to private schools.

Education has not been the first priority of the previous governments. The increasing number of school dropouts and less budget for higher education indicated a lack of seriousness of PPP and PML-N to upgrade public sector education in the country.

Read More: Supreme Court Fights Private Schools’ skyrocketing Fee Structures? A suggestion for Parents

PTI promised to reform the education system of Pakistan. Recently, in a move to reduce social injustice and provide every citizen with equal opportunity the federal government has announced to introduce the ‘national’ curriculum for all the institutes including seminaries.

The incumbent has already announced that no stone would remain unturned to counter with extremism in Pakistan. For that matter, radical reforms have been suggested in the education system of the country.

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