After educational institutions closed for the second time last year due to the second wave of Covid-19, more than 300 low-cost private schools across Karachi have been permanently closed.
All Private School Management Associations (APSMA) and All Sindh Private Schools & Colleges Associations (ASPSCA) said that most of these schools have operated in underprivileged urban areas.
They say that owners and administrators of hundreds of other constituent schools have approached them for financial assistance, but the association is in no position to help them and save the futures of their thousands of students.
They indicated that around 12 private school associations operate in the province. They also pointed out that permanently closing schools would increase the number of children dropping out of school if the authorities did not take concrete action.
“As an association, we only provide legal assistance and technical support, and help member schools improve teaching and learning activities,” said ASPSCA Chairman Haider Ali. “We can’t solve the financial problems in every school.”
He said his association was collecting data on schools whose owners were unable to run their institutions after the suspension of educational activities during the second wave of Covid-19.
He also said that around 500 low-cost private schools across the province would not be able to reopen. However, he stressed, his party had not completed the closed agency data. “Extensive work like that takes time to complete.”
Agreeing with Ali, the head of APSMA Sindh Syed Tariq Shah said that low-cost private schools continue to close forever as they have to pay rent, salaries, electricity bills and taxes from the fees collected.
However, he pointed out, the parents have refused to pay the fees for the past nine months, while neither the authorities have taken the matter seriously.
He said school owners also frequently reported dropping out of school, an estimated rate of between 20 and 25 percent of enrolled students. He warned that this would continue to increase the number of school dropouts in Pakistan.
Citing Unicef statistics, he said that with 22.8 million children dropping out of school, Pakistan was ranked second on the list of countries where children do not receive an education.
“Private educational institutions help the country provide access to basic education, but the authorities turn a blind eye to vulnerable units struggling to survive the current crisis.”
School owners who recently closed their institutions for good said they were facing financial difficulties because parents refused to pay fees.
“We sent them reminders, but instead of paying tuition fees, some of them took their children out of our school,” said Habibullah, who has been running his school in the Qasba Colony.
He rented a building in 2015 to start his school. Under the usual lease agreement, he is responsible for paying monthly rent, utility bills, and maintenance costs.
“Our school is not one of the institutions established to make money. We just want to give children around access to basic education. “
He said that when educational institutions closed for the first time last year because of the outbreak of the Covid-19 case, “we somehow managed the costs. However the second wave proved more challenging for our school ”. “In addition, the uncertainty about reopening educational institutions forces us to permanently close our schools because we have no money and there is no hope that any government agency will provide us with financial assistance.”
Another school owner named Muhammad Yousaf, who once ran a school in the Ranchore Line neighborhood, said the operating costs of low-cost private educational institutions were too high.
He said such schools are generally run in disadvantaged areas, where if they do not operate according to their daily routine, parents who are mostly working class do not pay tuition.
“Every time we ask parents to pay tuition fees, they argue why they should pay if the school is closed. This is one of the main reasons forcing us to permanently close the institution. “
Shah APSMA said that more schools tend to close permanently because their owners are unsure about reopening educational institutions. He pointed out that the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference will be held on January 14 or 15, after which the owners may revise their decision.
He said the situation was not that simple because school owners needed to manage rent, salaries and other expenses. Therefore, he added, the authorities should pay attention to their problems, especially those running low-cost institutions.