Schools Support Govt’s Efforts for Citizens’ Relief, but Fee Concession Directives Have No Legal Basis
Karachi: The Pakistan Education Council - Sindh ("PEC") has announced that keeping in view the current difficult situation in the country, it supports the government of Sindh (“GoS") in granting 20% concession to parents whose children attend private schools across the board for two months, in practical terms. However, the PEC has stated that legal cover is required for the notifications issued on 6th and 9th April. As of today, these notifications have no legal basis or justification. “Our fear is that our compliance with orders that are not authorised in law, will set an adverse example for future governments that may not have the wisdom of the present one”, stated the PEC spokesperson. “In this difficult hour for the nation, schools must take on a leadership role entrusted to them by their communities.” To that end, private schools have supported the many steps the GoS has undertaken to protect everyone from the perils of Covid-19. In fact, it was the PEC that suggested to the GoS to bring the summer vacations forward to April and May. “We appreciate their due consideration of our recommendations, as well as their collaboration with us, when making this decision. It goes without saying that the PEC stands shoulder to shoulder with the Government in this effort.” PEC clearly declared the intention of its member schools to help parents impacted by the March and April lockdowns. We continue to maintain that this can only be practically possible by focusing on those impacted the most, rather than indiscriminate concessions to everyone. As such, we backed the GoS's promotion of this selective strategy while it lasted. While the Government itself focuses its taxpayer-funded relief efforts on the most needy citizens based on established criteria, it is unsustainable for private institutions to be forced to provide financial relief to all customers, regardless of need, and without any commensurate relief from the Government. Indeed, the PEC will be most willing to revert to helping the neediest, should the GoS be unable to obtain legal cover for its notifications. The PEC also takes exception to the demeaning tone of the recent notifications from the Directorate that are not the first of their kind. The most recent ones were followed by "show cause" notices to some schools. These letters, never actually received by the schools in question, were leaked to the press and were based on alleged complaints from parents who had never approached the schools themselves. Public warnings of punitive action in insulting and humiliating language used for those who not only educate Pakistan's children but are also their role models is not acceptable. It is not in keeping with our cultural traditions, where the status of the "ustaad" is akin to that of the father. It leads to hostility from the media and all it achieves, at the end of the day, is widespread distrust, disrespect and dysfunction. The Directorate must understand that these actions have a negative impact on the relationship between parents and schools.