The Punjab Schools Education Department has done the right thing by rejecting an application from private schools demanding an increase in annual tuition fees up to eight percent. The provincial government’s position is that private schools may not be allowed to hike their tuition fees by more than five percent in light of the rulings of the honourable court. And since schools have failed to provide relevant documents to suggest why the ruling about the five per cent rise should be set aside in this particular case, the eight percent initiative shall not be allowed.
That much is fair enough, and the government no doubt makes a very relevant point. But surely in the present circumstances the government should be more accommodative of the position of private citizens than profit-making education institutes. Granted, school systems, both public and private, have suffered to no end because of the pandemic. And while the bigger and richer ones have been able to keep their student base intact because of the facility of online schooling, a very big majority, which were not in a position to leverage the online facility, have simply had to suffer very large losses or shut down. And now that schools are reopening the private ones are out to increase their resource base.
But that would not be very fair. Private schools that continued to operate right through the pandemic and lockdowns still charged their students the same fees that they did before this extraordinary situation. And since their costs were reduced, because their campuses were hardly being used, the argument that they need the additional money to make up for whatever they might have had to bear during the last one year or so is hard to accept.
In fact, most people who send their children to these fine schools, because of their high standards of education, have had their earnings trimmed during this time period, which has seen joblessness rise sharply just as the economy has contracted for very obvious reasons. Therefore, in these circumstances, it would not be prudent of the Punjab government to accept even a five percent increase in the fees of students of private schools. That would, without a doubt, force a lot of parents to remove their children from these institutions in favor of more affordable ones. That, of course, would compromise the quality of learning of a very large number of students just when a lot of children have already been forced out of schools. This moment requires extraordinary finesse on the part of authorities.