ISLAMABAD-Unending legal battles for the regulation of fee structure of the private schools operating in federal city has increased parents’ problems seeking a cap on exorbitant fees charged by schools, The Nation learnt on Wednesday.

Murtaza Ahmed’s daughter is studying in grade IV of a private school and he received a fee voucher of Rs25,202 to be paid till 10th of October.

The fee challan along with 5 per cent withholding tax also includes Rs1,838 difference amount of the months of July-September which he will pay in the months of October-December as balance payment.

Showing previous and current fee vouchers and letter written to parents, he said that school has independently increased 10 per cent fee, despite the fact that Supreme Court (SC) had ordered reduction of 20 per cent fee for private schools in the country.

A letter written to parents by school management said “the fees that have been approved by the Registering Authority for the current year are 10 percent higher than the fee that was approved by the Registering Authority for the year 2018-19 year. Although our expenses have increased by significantly more than 10 percent, we are only increasing our fee by 10 percent from the previous approved fee. This is currently the maximum limit that fees can be increased under the applicable law.”

Murtaza said that private schools and Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) are in long legal battles, but parents are receiving no relief from any corner as schools are freely increasing fee shifting extra financial burden on parents.

“It is a ping pong game being played and parents are suffering,” he said.

PEIRA following the SC judgment of 13-06-2019 on private Schools Fee Determination Case had issued a notification on 23-09-2019 for private schools of the city regarding recalculating and fixing grade-wise fee of all private schools and colleges of the city.

The SC had directed reducing 20 per cent fee to the private schools in its order. It also viewed that schools had excessively increased fee since 2017 in violation of the law and ordered striking down all such increase since January 2017.

A senior official of the Ministry Of Federal Education said that however, private schools of the federal city pleaded before Islamabad High Court (IHC) that SC order was not applicable in the case of private schools and the court issued restraining orders to PEIRA that no coercive measures shall be taken in pursuance to the notice issued by PEIRA on September 23.

“PEIRA started taking action to cap the exorbitant fee charged by private schools in violation of law but IHC order has now restrained the authority,” an official said.

The official said that parents are filing complaints against schools on exorbitant fees that the schools started charging again but PEIRA cannot take any action as the matter is sub judice.

When contacted president Private Schools Association Islamabad (PSAI) Zofran Ilahi, he responded that court had stopped PEIRA from executing its order issued on September 23, 2019.

“Parents have choice of admitting their children in public sector school or low fee charging private schools,” he argued.

Zofran Ilahi said that PEIRA rules should be made first and private sector should be included in the process as a stakeholder.

He claimed that PEIRA has increased the registration fee of schools from Rs25,000 to one million which is also a high jump.