Pakistan

School fee hikes are totally justifiable

By Framji Mavalvala
Education is a sensitive matter. I must tell you at the beginning to hold your heart while reading this article.

Pakistanis can happily agree to give a 10% annual increase in house rent, but they slit your throat if you demand the same raise in school fee because it’s all about educating the future generations.

We can somehow tolerate abnormal rise in the prices of branded lawns, fruits, tomatoes, onions, but we cannot stomach annual increase in schools fee.

A hearing is currently going on in the Sindh High Court (SHC) about the fee structure of private schools in Sindh. Last year, a similar situation was also developed in Punjab as well. Private school associations are demanding at least a 10% hike in school fee while a group of parents has succeeded in convincing the SHC to cap this increase at 5%.

The All Private Schools Management Association (APSMA) of Sindh say the cost of operating private schools has increased many folds in recent years, and therefore they need a respectable annual increase in fee to sustain their operations.

The association is not at all wrong in its earnest plea.

Firstly, due to growing security challenges and terrorist attacks on schools in big cities, most private schools now maintain a stringent security protocol which is an additional burden on their monthly operations. This is quite a new phenomenon because the state recently realized its ‘responsibility’ to secure schools in the country, though this is a primary responsibility of the state to provide security to every citizen.

Secondly, big cities in Pakistan have witnessed a phenomenal rise in property prices since 2014. Property prices have been doubled in last three years in most cases, according to the reports of leading newspapers in the country. Therefore, this automatically translated in housing rents as well. Since most of the private schools are run in rented buildings or bungalows, they had to reluctantly adjust with the market dynamics.

What option (as a school owner) do you have if your landowner suddenly demands a 30% to 50% rise in rent? You either pay him or pack up, endangering the studies of your students and jobs of teachers in jeopardy.

Other increases in the cost of operations like using generators and expensive water tankers are other than that.

State has no right to control school fee

As a teacher who takes his job seriously, I have every right to demand a respectable increase in salary from my school owner. I am my family’s only bread earner and I have to feed my school-going children, too.

But how can I expect anything at the end of the year if my school fails to sustain its expenses? How the school pays me if it fails to increase the fee on time?

I don’t want to blame parents here because they have their own arguments against schools and many of them are genuine.

However, I would request parents to think before enrolling pupils in schools so that they can handle such unusual circumstances. Please choose schools that you can afford and have good standards of education. Just do not assume that those schools that charge a higher amount of money have good standards as well. There are so many schools in big cities that cater to every strata of society, some have average fee structure while others charge a hefty amount.

There are people in this country who can afford anything under the sun. These people not only spend summer outside Pakistan, but winter vacations as well. When these people can spend this much money on leisure activities, they should also spend at least an equal amount of money on the education of their children because after all this is the best investment that anybody can make.

What the state is overlooking is the quality of education that the schools impart. In general, good schools charge higher fee as they try to provide higher standard of education.

By forcing schools to charge lower fee, the state is also forcing them to lower their standards of education because no school can hire good teachers who can enthusiastically teach in lower wages.

How can you expect a teacher to teach with devotion when his own children are starving at home? By throttling school management, the state is also killing those teachers who take up teaching as a career to grow, and live respectfully in this

Framji Mavalvala is a teacher in renowned school with an extensive teaching experience