PEC refutes Education Minister’s claim that Punjab Schools offered voluntary fee cut

With reference to the article printed in DAWN on 11 April, entitled “School agree to 20 per cent fee cut” which is was based on a press release by the Ministry of Education, Punjab, we wish to state:

  • That we are aware of the human and economic impact of COVID-19 and had offered alternate options to the Punjab government, but did NOT “voluntarily agree to lower fees by 20%” because of the impact it would undoubtedly have on our staff salaries
  • The said reduction was done under duress since the Minister of Education ordered it (without any legal framework) and repeatedly told parents on TV and social media to not pay regular school fees.
  • Since parents stopped paying regular school fees, private schools had no choice but to give in to this illegal demand. The only alternative would have been to release all staff, as schools cannot survive if parents stop paying fees altogether.
  • Private schools had presented a comprehensive COVID-19 Relief Package to the government, which would have provided far greater relief to parents truly impacted by the present economic downturn, but this was rejected in favour of the illegal 20% reductionُ.
  • The package outlined a comprehensive strategy to establish internal COVID-19 Financial Assistance Funds for parents whose livelihood was directly impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19 (further details on page 2)

Moreover,

  • It is not possible for any enterprise to survive with an overall revenue reduction of 20%.
  • Private school tuition fees are calculated on the basis of average expenses over 12 months including periods when schools are shut. Furthermore, even when schools are shut, 95% of overheads are fixed, such as salaries, rents, taxes, etc. This cut will make it impossible for private schools to bear their expenses.
  • Most importantly, schools will struggle to pay the hard-working school staff during this crisis as fee collections are already low due to the lock-down.
  • An arbitrary reduction of 20% across the board for two months will make it financially impossible for schools to help those parents who are truly in need (because they may not be able to pay the balance 80% in any case).

Pakistan Education Council (PEC) represents some of the leading schools in Pakistan. PEC was established in 2015 under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance (1984) to encourage, foster, promote, and assist education in Pakistan and to strive for improving access to quality education, setting benchmarks and practices for teaching & learning and advancing literacy levels in the country.

PEC member schools also work with government bodies across the country to manage low-cost private schools and government schools and train government teachers.

SUMMARY OF THE COVID-19 Relief Package proposed by Private Schools

The private education sector has always recognized its social responsibility and consistently come forward during all national crises in the past. In this spirit, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation had submitted the following 6-point ‘COVID-19 Relief Package’ to the Law Minister of Punjab, a key member of the Committee set up by the CM Punjab:

  • Despite cash flow issues caused by low fee collections, private schools undertake not to reduce any staff or salaries in the current academic year. We will ensure to the greatest possible extent that the livelihood of our employees is not endangered and they do not become indirect victims of this pandemic.
  • “Private schools will charge monthly fees for the months of April and May 2020 from ALL parents.
  • “In addition, private schools will offer installments to parents whose livelihood is directly impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19.  Affected parents should engage with school management to determine mutually acceptable payment plans for the remainder of the current academic year.
  • “In addition, private schools will ensure that there is no adverse impact on the education of a child whose parent is tested positive for COVID-19. We will ensure the continuity of education for the child during this difficult period.
  • “Finally, and in addition to their routine financial aid, private schools will establish internal COVID-19 Financial Assistance Funds with the objective of providing financial aid to parents who can establish that their income has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will enable private schools to offer significant support to parents who are truly in need (which would in all likelihood exceed a 20% reduction over two months).
  • “Private school owners undertake that they will contribute generously towards the government’s efforts to help combat the spread of COVID-19. This may include cash contributions to the PM and/or Punjab Government’s COVID-19 Relief Funds and/or other contributions in cash and kind.  We believe this is our social and moral responsibility irrespective of any effort to reconcile with the government.”
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