SC verdict on school fee relief awaited

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The private educational institutions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the provincial government are awaiting the announcement of the Supreme Court’s verdict on their dispute about giving fee concession to siblings enrolled as students.

The Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Peshawar, issued a notification on Aug 28, 2007 for enforcing Article 106(ii) of the Education Code of NWFP 1935 under which the younger siblings studying in a school are required to pay half fees.

Some private schools filed appeals in the Supreme Court after the Peshawar High Court (PHC) upheld the condition of fee concession on Feb 1, 2011.

Senior counsel Athar Minallah and Tariq Mehmood pleaded the case of the petitioners and Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousufzai represented the province.

After hearing both sides, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, reserved its ruling last month.

In the PHC judgement, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who has been elevated to the Supreme Court, had held that education had become an industry and an enterprise but it should not be shorn of humanistic and philanthropic considerations. Otherwise, the very purpose of education which could be none else but character building and something more than memorising a few useful lessons shall stand defeated.

The verdict held that the private sector of education could not be taken away from the umbrella of the code so as to allow it to grow into a wild forest of money yielding trees. “We therefore do not feel inclined to declare the code ineffective or ultra vires,” it said.

In their appeals, the private schools asserted that education was a specialised field and the cost of quality education all over the world was high. They said the most prestigious and highly rated educational institutions, such as Harvard, Princeton, Lums, Aga Khan University, Government College, Oxford University and Cambridge, maintained highest standards at a cost.

Terming the article of the code unreasonable, they contended that its enforcement would destroy the quality of education. They said the code comprised instructions compiled on Aug 15, 1934 by then director of public instructions T.C. Orgil and it should not be treated as having the force of law after independence. It was evident from the preface of the code that it did not have the status of a statute, rule or regulation made under an enacted law, they said. The majority of the educational institutions during that period were public, while others were dependent on the state and the phenomenon of private schools and education existing now was non-existent.

“It is apparent from the contents of the code that it was discriminatory, based on racism, promoted and glorified the British rule and Imperialism,” the petitions said. The holidays, scholarships and textbooks mentioned in the code had been abandoned for decades, they said.

They also said that the code had never been adopted as a law under the constitutions of 1956, 1962 or 1973.

The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa argued that the entire education system in the province was regulated through the code and the set of regulations had been accepted and acted upon till now. The Peshawar board had accepted the code and made it binding on all private and public schools, it said.

Source: Dawn News.