Concern over private schools regulatory authority

LAHORE:THE absence of any regulatory body for private schools of the province has been a matter of serious concern over the years. Nonetheless, what is being said and heard about the proposed regulatory authority may magnify the concern instead of addressing the problems frequently highlighted by stakeholders.

According to Chief Minister’s Taskforce on Elementary Education Chairman Raja Muhammad Anwar, the proposed Punjab Private Education Promotion and Regulatory Authority (PPERA) will comprise eight representatives from private sector and seven from the public sector while its chairman will be chosen by the PPERA Board of Governors and that too from private sector.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Raja Anwar said “It is the priority of the government that private educational institutions should run their affairs through an independent and autonomous statutory body and solve their problems themselves.”

MPA Raja Anwar, who is also heading a committee formed by the Punjab CM to propose establishment of an independent body to regulate affairs of private schools, says, “The aim of this initiative is to provide a representative forum to the private sector schools so that they could settle their matters without any hindrance or concern.”

The senior PML-N politician went on to say, “The Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotion and Regulation) Ordinance 1984, dealing with the functioning of private sector schools, also contained a fee clause while we didn’t bring up any such proposal in our recommendations.”

However, the stakeholders believe that giving maximum representation to private sector and appointing the proposed body’s chairman from private sector could mar the very spirit of regulatory authority. They also believe that being a majority in the proposed body the private sector could formulate bylaws which suit it.

They suggest that the proposed authority should have more participation from public sector, saying otherwise the genuine public concerns related to ever increasing fee and imposition of different kinds of funds/charges could not be addressed.

“People have been waiting for a regulatory body which addresses their concerns related to private schools,” said a concerned citizen, Babar, adding that however it seemed the government was thinking of something totally opposite.

He said the unbridled working of private schools was making people’s life miserable, adding that they had found a ray of hope when the CM constituted a committee to address all such issues a year back. However it is unfortunate that people’s genuine concerns are not being addressed,” he said, adding, “It seems the government wants to facilitate private schools only.”

It is important to mention here that ever increasing fees of private especially elite private schools together with heavy registration and admission fee and purchase of stationery and other school items from prescribed shops have been major concerns of the stakeholders. They have been demanding the government establish a body which regulates all such issues and cap the fee structure.

Another concerned citizen said a leading group of private schools had recently introduced transparent schoolbags which could be purchased from the schools only. “Everyone knows the move is just to mint more and more money,” he said, adding, “Otherwise who can assure that such schoolbags could help avoiding any unfortunate incident.”

There is prevailing impression that the government is reluctant to come hard upon big private schools as these are owned by families of politicians. There is also a feeling that some big-guns involved in education business have been pressuring the government not to introduce any legislation in connection with private schools.

Academic circles are also of the view that the government should come up with a body that addresses ever increasing issues and concerns related to private schools instead of facilitating the private sector only.

THE Safeguard and Save the Children have achieved the target to build sanitation facilities in 100 schools within 100 days.

This was stated by Safeguard’s Brand Manager Mubashara Khalid while talking to reporters at a media trip to Government Primary School, Sadhokey, Lahore, last week.

She said the schools chosen for this campaign were located across low- income areas of Pakistan in three major cities Karachi, Lahore and Quetta.

Mubashara Khalid said the Safeguard and Save the Children had up till now successfully built 100 promised hand-washing toilets and water supply facilities in the schools across three cities: 60 in Quetta, 20 in Lahore and 20 in Karachi.

She also said that according to the UNICEF, Pakistan, about 80 percent of all major diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis were due to the unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.

Through this partnership, she said, the Safeguard and Save the Children aimed to address the incidence of common illness arising from poor sanitation facilities in schoolchildren and empower Pakistani children to adopt healthy habits through health and education and improved access to hand washing, toilet and water supply facilities.

The teachers and students of Department of English, Jhang Campus of the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), visited departments of Fine Arts, Information Technology and Mass Communication of the varsity’s main campus here last week.

The delegation visited different areas of the departments where they were briefed about the workings of the departments and activities of students. The students also visited laboratories, conference room, audio visual lab, TV and FM radio studios. They also observed the workings of the labs and studios and showed keen interest.——lachvee@gmail.com The news