Is Beaconhouse school system exploiting parents in Karachi?

The Beaconhouse School System is being accused of exploiting the parents in the name of stationary items. Will the government take action against the administration for violating the Supreme Court’s verdict?

Beaconhouse

There are some reports suggesting increase in fee by the private school across Pakistan. Sources told GVS that the schools are blackmailing parents not to share anything with the media.  In the latest case, the Beaconhouse school system in Karachi is being accused of exploiting the parents in the name of booklets.

According to the parents, the school administration has strictly advised them to buy books and other stationary items from the designated shops. “These shops,” allege parents, “sell ordinary items at much higher price than the market rates”. It has been learnt through reliable sources that the school administration gives 8% profit to the shop owners if the latter’s sell out booklets and stationary books suggested by the former.

It is worth noting that recently a three-judge Supreme Court bench struck down any increase in private schools’ fee since 2017 in its verdict on appeals pertaining to exorbitant hikes by private institutions.

The three-member bench, comprising then-Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Faisal Arab, heard the appeals filed by parents of students as well as private schools.

In a 65-page verdict, the court said that private schools had “excessively increased fee since 2017 in violation of the law” and that the charges should be restored to what they were in January 2017 and the additional amount be “struck down”.

“It will be deemed that there was no increase in fee since 2017 and fees were frozen at the rates prevailing in January 2017,” the ruling read.

The verdict said that any increase in school fees — the allowed limit is 5 per cent per year — must be in accordance with the laws and that any recalculation be made “using the fee prevailing in 2017 as the base fee”. The recalculation method, the top court said, must be supervised by regulators and the amount charged must be “approved by them [and] shall be treated as the chargeable fee”.

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The verdict also forbade the schools to recover “under any circumstances” arrears for fees reduced in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 2018 interim ruling on the matter. In the interim order, the Supreme Court had ordered a 20pc ad hoc reduction in fees charged by private schools charging more than Rs5,000 per month to provide some immediate relief to parents.

“The regulators shall closely monitor the fee being charged by private schools to ensure strict compliance with the law and the rules/regulations. Complaint cells shall be set up to deal with complaints arising out of increase in fee in violation of the law/rules/regulations,” the verdict read.

Private schools defying the court’s order

The private schools are allegedly defying the court’s order as well as the government’s instructions to implement the order against excessive fee.

The government has warned the schools to rationalize the fee in accordance with Supreme Court orders forthwith; otherwise, it will start criminal proceedings against the owners and administrators of the schools failing to comply with.

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

The government had constituted a five-member district registering authority (DRA) to implement the orders of the apex court. The authority had received around 350 complaints from parents from different areas of the city against the schools that were not following SC directions about the fee.

Around 150 complaints were received against the Beaconhouse School System, 140 against Lahore Grammar School, 18 against LACAS and 11 against City School.

Parents Action Committee (PAC) Secretary General Sajeel Usmani said most of the elite schools were not implementing the orders of the SC to freeze uncontrolled fee increase to 2017 level or link any increase to the approval of a DRA. He said they were registering complaints against the private schools for implementation of the Supreme Court and Lahore High Court prevailing orders with an iron hand. He said the government was the actual petitioner in the SC against the LHC verdict and it had won favorable decision but the government was expressing its inability to implement the court orders.

Mr Usmani said the private schools were interpreting the decision of the apex court on their own.

District Education Authority Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Pervaiz Akhtar said the DRA had held its first meeting three days ago to make a plan to implement the SC orders. He said the DRA members had also reviewed complaints of the parents to address their grievances and had issued notices to several private school branches for personal hearing. “The authority has also imposed Rs0.6m fine on various private school branches for violating the SC order,” he said.

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Mr Akhtar said the authority was imposing fine on schools first for not implementing the SC orders, it would again impose a major fine as second step before finally lodging a criminal case against the owner and administrator of the school.

It is to be seen how does the government deal with the private schools to address the reservations of parents during the ongoing economic crisis.

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