Islamabad - The government has asked the private schools working in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to give relief to the parents and come up with an acceptable fee hike formula according to inflation rate or else the government will take unilateral decision.

Federal State Minister for Education and Professional Training Baligh Ur Rehman who has been tasked by the prime minister to resolve the issue of fee hike in a meeting with the representatives of private schools asked them clearly that the government has decided to give relief to the parents.

The minister and officials representing regulatory body of private schools proposed to relate the fee raise with the annual inflation rate notified by the government, saying that “unjustified fee hike is not acceptable to anyone”.

The representatives/owners of private schools have been given one day to draw a consensus and come up today (Friday) with an agreed formula to raise fees acceptable to all stakeholders or else the government will announce a unilateral decision on the matter.

Elite schools, including Head Start, Roots, Beaconhouse, Freobel’s, Westminster, City School System and Lahore Grammar School have increased fees in September from 12 to 25 per cent that has perturbed thousands of parents, who have started a protest campaign against this unbridled hikes.

Baligh Ur Rehman said that unjustified fee hike is not acceptable to anyone as a number of parents have moved their children to other schools, which has negatively impacted the children and their families.

“Increase in fee, if any, should not be more than the current rate of inflation and it should not be done without any established mechanism,” he added. “The prime minister has expressed serious concerns over this issue and he wants to get it solved immediately,” he said.

Representatives of private schools briefed the minister regarding their concerns and reasons behind the fee hike that has become a bone of contention among private schools, parents and the government.

They said that increase in inflation, advance taxes, increase in CPI, and increase in the rents of the buildings are the major causes of the fee increase.

They further added that they pay good salaries to their teachers and staff, and pay special attention to the security of the children and provide them with all the upgraded facilities and therefore it is not possible for them to operate on a low cost.

After listening to the concerns of private schools, the minister said that schools should have obtained prior permission from PIERA regarding their fee structure. He emphasised again that all schools, while demanding fee hike should keep in view the very low rate of (current) inflation rate. Another meeting will be held today(Friday) in which final decision will be taken.

The Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) also directed the elite private schools to reverse the recent hike in fee to the structure of the last month and resolve the issue with parents amicably. The Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA), the authority that is responsible for monitoring hundreds of private schools is headless since June 2013 and its employees are without salaries since the start of the current fiscal year.

Officials said in 2013-14 when the acting charge of the authority was with a member of PEIRA, a complaint redressal mechanism and a forum of private schools owners were functional that helped running the affairs smoothly.

But later, the said forums were dismantled that left the regulator completely ineffective.