LAHORE – The Lahore High Court was told on Tuesday that the Punjab government had distributed more than Rs23 billion among the private education institutions during the last five years. The money to elite schools was given on the name of financial assistance while the poor students of some 61,000 state-run schools had been deprived of even the basic necessities.

Chief Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed took a serious notice of the situation and sought reply from the rulers. He also directed the Schools Education Department’s secretary to submit a reply on Wednesday. The CJ was hearing a petition seeking free education under Article 25-A, added in the Constitution of Pakistan through the 18th Amendment.

The petitioner/lawyer Azhar Siddique informed the court that financial assistance being given to private education institutions had reached up to 11 per cent of the education budget. He revealed in the court that the millions students of about 61,000 government schools had been deprived of furniture, washrooms, libraries, laboratories, fans, and clean drinking water and other basic facilities.

He contended the concerned officers and authorities of education department were crying repeatedly for the release of funds according to the needs of schools situated the remote areas of the province but the provincial government was rewarding private institutions in form of cash on favoritism basis.

He submitted in the court a report showing that the Punjab government had given Rs150 million to Care Foundation, Rs200 million to Beacon House University, Rs380million to Al-Khair Public School, Rs2592million to Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur while millions of rupees had been given to some other private institutions during the last five years. He said that private schools have no right for financial assistance as they were already receiving heavy fees from the students.

He requested for directions to provincial government to submit the details and reasons behind the distribution of national kitty among the favorite private institutions.

After recording the arguments, the chief justice directed the secretary schools education department and Punjab government to submit the reply on Wednesday.

Petitioner had submitted that Article 25-A was added in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment while June 2011 had been fixed for its implementation in the province. Under the said article, it was the responsibility of provincial government to provide free education to students aged 5 to 16 years.

However, provincial as well as federal governments were not fulfilling their constitutional responsibility.