PRIVATE SCHOOLS continue to operate as cartels holding society hostage.

Fees are, of course tabulated using various heads, the basic fee being just one component; extra curricular activities, books and materials, sports and so on.

All that schools had to do - those that wanted to, that - is use the court-ordained scale at the basic fee level, thus accomplishing the desired hike. Many schools did and continue to do so, customers be damned.

To put it on the record, school authorities have argued that inflation and the cost of doing business have not stop rising, and some requirements have been imposed on them that are costly, such as the raising of the boundary walls and beefed-up security measures, which were an outcome of militant /terrorist attacks on some educational institutions, most grotesquely on the Army Public School, Peshawar.

Clients have the freedom, they argue, to lower their expectations and vote with their feet.

But in recent months, this too has started raising resentment in some quarters, especially in these times of rising inflation, pay cuts, and an economic slowdown that has left nobody untouched, to various extents.

I know of one top-tier school in Karachi, where some parents formed a formal committee and met the school authorities to open a dialogue about the concerns, and set up a negotiating table.

But it's one thing to stand by such an uprising on a WhatsApp group, and another to meet the school principal face to face - partly, because there is a fear that the participants of the 'revolt' are identified,, and the fall out might be unleashed on their children, who are studying in that very institution.

So too did this committee find that it was a challenge to raise the numbers of parents to put up a resolute front to the school authorities.

Fortunately, some stalwarts soldiered on, and in this particular case an agreement [that involved some concessions to the parents' demands] was reached. Similar efforts have been made at a few other institutions that I am aware of, with mixed success.

The eventual answer, though, is pretty much as clear as day. The buck stops where it has always stopped : the state

Never has there been a more urgent need to find ways of improving the standards of, increasing the numbers of, and believably shoring up the reputations of public sector institutions.

The state can no longer be allowed to abdicate its mandate so completely. 

The World Students Society thanks author Hajrah Mumtaz/Dawn.


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