IT'S A STORM that's been many decades in the making, and for the past couple of years some part of it seems to have come to a head.

I speak, of course, of the country's and parent's challenges in educating the young - in a system that is, like many other aspects, badly broken.

The issues are well documented and fairly well understood. There are millions of children in the country who never who never make it to school., or who drop out somewhere along the road.

It could be that the children come from families that cannot afford education, or the children need to work to support their families.

There are prejudices against girls' education; and the problem of schools, especially secondary ones, being too vast to be viable; and even the numbers of  primary schools not adequately catering to the needs of a burgeoning population.

And were these formidable hurdles not enough to contend with, there is the tinkering that the  public-sector  education system has been subjected to under various governments and over various decades , and its steeply falling standards.

This, as we all know, has led to the  privatization of the  educational sector, with the state abdicating its responsibility and yielding control/oversight, and the private schooling area operating as virtual cartels holding 'consumers and various tiers of society hostage.

In recent years, though, a reckoning of sorts seems to have been put into some sluggish motion, for a given value thereof.

It started with some private-schools 'customers' - parents - in Islamabad launching a public protest against the institution's fee rise practices. These were people from the higher tiers of society, thus influential, and with a voice loud enough to be heard, and the school in question was one of the best -and priciest - in the city.

From this snowballed a years' long process of exploration that had just been waiting to happen. Some clients of other schools, in other cities, started sharing their experiences and reservations, and the murmurings grew loud enough to become a susurration.

Eventually, the  justice system became involved and the results was a series of court rulings, most recently at the level of the Supreme Court, that the annual rise in fees be capped at a certain point : five per-cent of the basic fee.

This may sound something of a victory, but it is something Pyrrhic. First, it was a fetter that was all too easy for unscrupulous institutions to get around.

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

All that schools has to do - those that wanted to, that is use the court-ordained scale at the basic fee level and raise the amount on other fronts, thus accomplishing the desired hike.

Many schools did and continue to do so, customers be damned.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on Developing World and Education, continues. The World Students Society thanks Dawn and author, Hajrah Mumtaz


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