By Aneeqa Sikandar
Okara: Parents of children enrolled at Dar-e-Arqam schools were outraged as the school raised fees for the second time in an year. Parents report that having first increased the fee in March this year at 6.5 percent, the school further raised it by 8 percent in September. After being dismissed by the school, the parents submitted an application to the District Commissioner, who promptly called a committee meeting and declared the fee hike impermissible by law. The DC ordered the school to issue new fee vouchers with reduced fees and to compensate the students who had already paid the increased fees.
However, Rizwan Ahmed, Director Dar-e-Arqam schools refused to obey the order, threatening to drag the parents to court, and challenged the order in Civil Court. The school was thereby granted a stay order by the Civil Court, and the fee vouchers kept being issued with the increased fee.
As the parents refused to pay the unfair fees, the school administration started to punish their children by making them sit outside class and threatening with expulsion, and refused them entry the next day. Following this, the parents along with their children stood protesting outside District Bar Association, where they filed 20 applications against the school administration. The Director responded by filing two FIRs against parents, both of which were proved baseless and denied.
It is important to note that Dar-e-Arqam schools are owned by prominent Jamat-e-Islami member, Irfan Ahmed, who has given various franchises to his nephew, Rizwan Ahmed. It is also notable that the only franchises of the school which experienced fee hikes twice a year were owned by Rizwan Ahmed. Parents also complain that the school sells textbooks exclusively at their own shop, which are not available to buy anywhere else.
General Secretary Progressive Students Collective Okara, Mujtaba Malik, has condemned the fee spike and expressed solidarity with the protesting parents. “The private school system has become a money minting mafia, gobbling up hard earned money of working parents. There’s a dire need to put reins on their excesses. It is the responsibility of the state to provide free and quality education to all. In the absence of a proper system of public education, private mafias loot people in exactly the way we are witnessing in this case,” he said.