ISLAMABAD  -   Supreme Court on Monday rejected the apology of two private schools and directed them to submit their written replies to the contempt notice.

On January 10, the top court was informed that pursuant to its order regarding fees reduction and as a reaction thereto, some of the private schools had taken an adversarial stance in order to pressurise the parents or the top court to give up their principled stand of provision of education at reasonable rates.

The adversarial steps are meant to intimidate the students and their parents. However, these steps were deprecated by the top court.  In this regard, the court’s attention was drawn to Headstart School as well as Ecole des Lumieres School of Light which have circulated highly-derogatory letters addressed to parents and guardians.

The top court had issued notices to the owners, directors, chief executives of the said schools to appear and explain as to why proceedings for contempt of court might not be initiated against them and they might not be punished in accordance with the law. A 3-judge bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed took up the case and reprimanded the owners for writing derogatory letters against the top court’s orders and sending the same to parents of students.  The bench also expressed displeasure on noncompliance of its orders by the schools. 

Counsels, representing the mentioned schools, tendered apology, saying the clients shall be careful in future. However, the bench did not accept their apology and ordered them to file written reply.  Justice Ijazul Ahsan, member of the bench, expressed anger on private school authorities for terming the court’s decision regarding fee reduction as a ‘draconian judgment.’ “Your (school management) letters to parents are contempt of this court,” he noted.

Justice Ahmed further grilled the school authorities and remarked that the court could direct the government to take over these schools to handle their administrative affairs.

Justice Ahmed further hinted at conducting audit of schools to check whether the owners had black or white money. He remarked that the education had been converted into a business, adding that schools were not to be a money-making industry.  The counsel of the private schools submitted before the bench that the owners did not intend to insult the court; instead they had implemented the court orders and reduced fees.

Justice Ahmed observed, “We are aware of the kind of comments that were passed after the court’s order. Why don’t deal with private schools and order the government to take charge of them. Schools are neither an industry nor a money-making sector.”

He was irked by the conduct of school owners and the kind of questions being asked by the private school administrators to parents.

“Who are private schools administrators to ask parents where they take their children for holidays and entertainment,” Justice Ahmed lambasted on private schools. The bench then adjourned the hearing of the case for two weeks.

He remarked that private schools had started asking personal questions from parents like their sleeping time, wakeup time and monthly salaries. “What schools have to do with these matters,” he asked.

It is learnt that the unbridled private schools have been in complete defiance of the top court’s orders regarding fee reduction.

The top court’s action on account of fees hike by private schools has been appreciated by the parents across the country. However, one aspect of the matter is left unaddressed that these schools are minting millions of rupees, besides monthly and annual fees, by demanding thousands of rupees from parents every second day in the name of extracurricular activities, events, festivals and galas.

The greed of private school owners does not stop here. Besides minting money in the name of extracurricular activities, additionally charges are also being taken in the name of different kinds of stationary. Even a pack of colour pencil which is available on cheaper rates in markets is being sold by the schools in hundreds of rupees.  

AIMS Education System Islamabad is one of them which is not only clearly disobeying the top court’s orders and charging the fees from parents on previous rates but also pocketing thousands of rupees from parents every second day in the name of extracurricular activities and fun galas.

The behaviour of the said school’s owners and administration raises question when the top court will not hold them accountable then who will.

Many schools including the mentioned one have sent a form of survey to parents asking them to suggest if they wanted fee cut or quality of education.

The 7-page written order of the last date of hearing authored by Justice Ijazul Ahsan had observed, “We live in a country of laws and private individuals cannot be permitted to flout the laws and circumvent orders passed by the highest Court of the country,” the top court had observed in its written order.

The top court also noticed that the audit conducted by Federal Board of Revenue had revealed that the private schools were being run like businesses where the directors and chief executives were drawing huge salaries.

“It also needs to be examined how the regulatory authorities can interact and regulate schools so that the rampant practice of overcharging the students can be curtailed.”

Secretary Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Rahim Awan had conducted an elaborate exercise involving educationists, experts, planners and other stakeholders in the field of education.

This is an effort to compile a list of proposals designed to address the problems faced by the educational system in Pakistan and ways to improve it.

The report has been placed on its website and also circulated amongst private and public sector schools for their comments and input.

The top court was told that some input and proposals had been received which require consideration.