Islamabad -  The Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) is considering imposing a transportation charge on students to cover the cost of around 150 buses purchased under Prime Minister Education Reforms Program (PMERP), Tuesday.

The federal government, under article 25-A of the constitution, has vowed to provide free education to the students till matriculation level. However, according to official sources, FDE is now contemplating preparing a proposal to collect transportation charges from students to be able to pay the staff running the buses.  Officials informed The Nation that till now the directorate has purchased 151 buses out which 130 have been distributed to different educational institutions of the city and 21 are anchored.

The previous government had announced providing 423 buses to all public sector educational intuitions of the city under PMERP.

The priority in distribution of buses was given to the girls and rural area schools where students had difficulties reaching the institutions due to non-availability of public transport facilities. The charges of private transport were beyond their range of affordability.

However, FDE lacks the funds to pay the drivers, and helpers as well as fuelling and maintenance of the vehicles.

The department had earlier hired the drivers on daily wage basis but the latter refused to cooperate on non-provision of salaries.  The official said that the intermediate and graduation level students availing the bus facility are already paying Rs500 to the institution.

But, collecting the fee from school students will likely contradict with the government’s promise of providing free education to all students, said the official.

The official also said that some of the schools are already charging fee from the students against provision of the facility as the school administrations are unable to run the buses without its expenses.

Official added that a committee comprising parents and students will decide the bus fare, while the administration is proposing charging around Rs800 from each student for availing the bus facility.   The committee will not address the grievances of all parents, especially from the rural areas, who will face the financial impact of the decision taken.

Talking to The Nation director administration Federal Directorate of Education  Dr. Tariq Masood said that FDE conducted a study to find a solution to make functional the purchased buses.

He said that the department proposed either to drop the idea of collecting fee from students or to take nominal charges from the students.

He said that Federal Directorate of Education  in previous government had sent the proposal to finance ministry for creating the budgeted posts of drivers but the proposal was rejected and the department was directed to make arrangements on its own.

Dr. Tariq Masood said that no decision has yet been taken on the proposal but it will help in making the buses functional.  “It is better that buses should remain functional rather than being anchored in the institutions,” he said.

 He also said that charging the fee for transportation services will not contradict with article 25-A of the constitution which ensures providing free education to the students.