Introduction: – As the name suggests, today’s article focuses on the relief granted to the citizens of Punjab and other provinces by The Respective Governments, and its implementation amid Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Moreover, how it affected me personally would be explained below though it’s been 6 years since I left school. Bearing in mind the fact that this is something related to general public as well, I will try my level best to keep it simple for the better understanding of those who are from the non-legal backgrounds.
Education as a Subject of Provincial Legislation: – Before moving any further, it is important to clarify the concept of provincial assemblies legislating regarding educational matters. Almost every one of us has heard about the eighteenth amendment to the constitution of Pakistan 1973 in 2010. Besides all other modifications that were made part of the constitution the most praised and popular one was the delegation of autonomy to the provinces. To put it simple, many of the powers were granted to the provinces in the form of the transfer of “Concurrent Legislative List” present in the fourth schedule of The Constitution of Pakistan 1973 to their jurisdiction. Previously, those subjects were considered to be the domain of “Concurrent Jurisdiction” meaning thereby, both the federal and provincial governments could legislate on the matters enumerated. Point no. 38 to the then “Concurrent Legislative List” mentioned the following subjects:-
‘Curriculum, syllabus, planning, policy, centers of excellence and standards of education.’
Hence, the education becomes the jurisdiction of a province without any interference.
Notifications by Punjab Government on 22 April, 2020:- Acting under the above stated powers the Punjab Government passed two notifications (13-29/2003 (P-I) and SO (ACADE-I) 1- 31/2008) in pursuance of their policy to grant relief to the school students and their parents. Firstly, they introduced an amendment to insert the Article 12-D to THE PUNJAB PRIVATE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (PROMOTION AND REGULATION) ORDINANCE, 1984. The amendment simply allows the legislature to make emergency arrangements as per the need of time. Subject to this amendment the Government secondly ordered all the private schools charging above Rs. 5000 to grant a 20% fee concession to their students.
My Involvement in the Case: – Co-incidentally my brother Ali Hamzah Khan has also been recently promoted to the 2nd year of I.C.S studying in a quite renowned school chain in Pakistan. It all took place when I was intimated about the reply the school gave to my brother on demand of the above said discount in fees. The school very cleverly tried to mould the words in its favor by stating that the orders don’t apply to the “College Students” i-e the students above the matriculate level. Surprised me, I had to go through the “THE PUNJAB PRIVATE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS (PROMOTION AND REGULATION) ORDINANCE, 1984.” The specific article is 2(10) which says:-
(10) “School” means:
(a) A school, by whatever name called, preparing students for pre-primary, primary, elementary, high, higher secondary, O-Level, A-Level, General Certificate of Secondary Education, Human Scale Education or any other similar system of education.
The School’s Response: – The response of the school was even more astonishing as they declared it to be a dictionary derived definition which they do not agree with. After that, the management started bypassing any communication between them and the student. It is important to note that the physical appearance had not been possible due to the pandemic situation going on. Anyhow, after all the efforts rendered in vain the Pakistan’s Citizens Portal was accessed and the concerned authority i-e “Chief Executive Officer – District Education Authority, Lahore was approached. But this is not it! The school literally disregarded the notice issued for the compliance with the law blatantly, giving no reasons in written for doing so. Upon several requests the administration agreed on a physical meeting on which they denied any sort of application of the orders on them. A written application through a courier service was also delivered since they refused to give any receipt by hand. To add up to the stubbornness the student was also struck off the online classes as a reaction to the non-payment of dues.
The Final Remedy: – Thankfully enough, being from the legal fraternity I knew the legal remedies available with me and I was almost ready to knock the doors of The Honorable High Court Lahore ( through the writ petition), when the school administration perceiving the sensitivity of the situation, finally issued the amended fee voucher after a whole one and a half month.
Conclusion: – There are multiple reasons to state the incident. Firstly, to intimate all of the readers regarding their rights underlying the orders passed by the Governments of almost all the provinces. It is requested to all of you to not be conned by the manipulation of words being constantly done by the school mafia. The term school encompasses the college students too, hence the orders extend to them as well. Now it is your duty to get what you deserve anyway. Secondly, it is a sad reality in today’s world that even the rightful ones have to strive for what they are legally entitled to. So, don’t hesitate in asking what is rightfully yours. Thirdly, we have become so callous towards the wrongs that the doers have left with no fear in committing them, it is us who have to start raising voice or the injustice would be prevalent in the society as a matter of routine. Last but of course not the least, I wish that it acts as a precedent for those who are facing the similar problems. I would conclude with the historic words “If not us who? If not now when?”