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Private school mafia?

We are the people who live and die every day. We are the fighters who wake up every morning competing our ways to some undisclosed destinies. We are the nation who struggles for enforcement of our rights, daily. We, the survivors of suicide blasts, terrorist attacks, sexual abuse, and target killings, are now fighting for our right to affordable education, while the martyrs have rested in peace.

The constitutional mandate, in this regard, is very clear and loud. Under Article 25-A of our Constitution, it is the responsibility of our State to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years, in the manner prescribed by law. Constitutionally, it seems like that this is neither the responsibility of the parents nor the schools established (just to flourish their businesses), instead, it the responsibility of our State.

The ongoing issue of vehement increase in the fees of private schools has maintained its hype in the media as well as newspapers. Apparently, the private schools mafia completely ignored the specific directions issued by the government of Punjab suspending the increased schools fee for the year 2015-16. One very pertinent fact is that Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) has completely failed to fulfill its mandate under the law, since it is unable to regulate the private schools. As a result of the ongoing protests by the parents, the Prime Minister has taken notice of the issue. It is reported that the government of Punjab has promulgated an amendment ordinance to cater to the situation at hand, and has amended the existing The Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance, 1984. Similar trend of regulating fee structures has also been observed by other provinces. It has also been reported that the private schools representatives have agreed to 10 percent annual increase in fee.

However, the important question is that are the parents satisfied with the ongoing settlements?

As is mandated by our constitution, and would be argued by many people, it is the exclusive responsibility of State to ensure compulsory and free education, therefore the private schools are under no obligation to assume the same responsibility. As such, the private schools mafia is free to run their schools-cum-business in the most profitable way that pleases them?

Let us be clear about the situation. It is the desire of each one of us that one’s children get the best possible education, even though one is not capable of affording the huge amount of fees to get good enough education. In contrast to this, our State does not have enough resources to provide free education to the students that is at par with the standards set forth for the higher studies.

The reality is that neither a carpenter wants his son to become a carpenter, nor does a nurse want her daughter to be humiliated just like her in this aggressive society. A rickshaw driver does not want his boy to inherit his rickshaw and the short-cuts he knows to take passengers to their destinies. Not a mechanic wants his son’s hands be blackened by the grease and oil. They all want better than this, regardless of where fate would take their children at the end.

Instead of putting the entire blame on the State, we all need to believe that it is a composite responsibility of both the private schools as well as the public schools to keep providing qualitative education on an affordable price, and to improve the sinking quality of education, respectively. If the private schools have assumed the (constitutional?) responsibility of providing education on behalf of the State, it is their duty to act in a way so as to get their businesses going, and to provide standard education that is inexpensive enough to be achieved by almost every citizen of the country.

If we cannot do this, may be the only solution is contained in producing a new Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who would then nationalize all the schools with an aim to implement equal education system?

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