Islamabad - With the directions to private schools in Punjab by Lahore High Court for charging school fee during the summer vacations on monthly basis instead of obtaining three months fee collectively, calls are growing to follow suit in Islamabad too.

On May 28, 2015 the Lahore High Court (LHC) had restrained private schools from collecting fees during summer vacation. The court directed the Punjab government to advertise the order in media. But the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) is no mood to follow the decision despite complaints of parents, as the body has been virtually dysfunctional for the past six months.

“The parents were asked to deposit fee of two months in advance after that the school announced the annual results in June,” complained a parent whose child study in a private school in I-8/3 sector.

Although it is quite late and the schools are about to open in August after summer break and parents have already submitted three months fee in advance, yet any policy decision by the regulatory body can facilitate the parents in future, remarked father of a schoolchild.

According to information, a group of parents had also met with the State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Barrister Usman Ibrahim in this regard but they were demanding to ban the tuition fee in vacations altogether that, officials say, is out of question. The parents have also moved Islamabad High Court to get relief that seems to be unlikely, opined one of the CADD officials.

The parents object when they do not send their children to schools to take tuition in summer breaks, why should they pay tuition fee. On the other hand, private school representatives argue that they pay salaries to teaching staff in vacations too and do repair work of the school building so they have no other option but to charge fee to meet expenses.

CADD Joint Secretary Rukhsana Rehman, who is currently looking after the affairs of PEIRA, did not respond to the calls made for comments on the matter.

However, CADD Secretary Khalid Hanif said that currently no law existed that could bind the private schools against collecting fee in summer breaks. But they could be asked to collect fee on monthly basis to facilitate the parents, he added. “We have been waiting for the IHC response as parents have moved the court. We will implement it whatever the court decides.” He clarified that LHC has no jurisdiction over Islamabad and it too in its decision only asked the private schools to collect fee on monthly basis and did not abolish the fee.

Though the jurisdiction of every high court is limited to its area only yet its decisions can be followed and implemented in other areas too where the existent laws of land are silent on the matter, remarked Chaudhry Khalid, vice-president of Islamabad Bar Association.

Islamabad has followed Punjab decisions in most of the cases and, initially, the LHC decisions used to be implemented here before the establishment of IHC in January 2011, he added.

The CADD oversees the capital city’s private schools, which totals over 1,000, through a watchdog PEIRA. Although the mandate of the body is to regulate the fee structure only and the fee can’t not be abolished altogether, yet a middle way can be found out to appease both the parties, remarked an official of PEIRA wishing not to be named. “But nobody wants to initiate any effort. To strengthen the regulatory body is not the priority of the government,” he remarked.

According to officials, there has been mushroom growth of private schools but the mechanism of accountability and oversight to regulate these private institutes is lacking because of regulatory dysfunction. The body has been working without a permanent head for the last two years and the cases of registration, renewal of registration, affiliation and inspection of schools have been piling up for the past six months.

It is important to mention that Rs 15 million budget allocated for the authority in the last fiscal year also lapsed, as it has been rendered non-operational and only the salaries of the employees could be paid at the eleventh hour that remained stopped for four months.