Where does a private school draw the line?
Recently this image has been running rounds all over social media. With a multitude of people condemning the very letter itself, outraged by the audacity that the school represents. Outraged by the reality that, a private institution for education, is a business.
We have this sense of moral duty, an idea of this utopia that we want Pakistan should be. For some it’s an Islamic heaven, others a secular haven, but one thing perhaps everyone can agree on is the basis that no one should be deprived of a quality education. The issue lies in the very fact that this form of utopia, this idea, is far from being implemented. With that said the whole idea that due to the fee not being paid a child is being removed from class is something that looks morally outrageous. Not just looks but it speaks to us at our very core. For there is no doubt that schools fees in private institutions are on a rise. The question is, do we have a right to be outraged over a school asking for its due?
Perhaps what we can take issue with is the bluntness in the whole letter as such. It was less of an individual notice but more of a public admonishment, and that is something that we as a community should view as a problem. Perhaps it would have been politer to call the parents to school. Or send a personalised letter, instead of having the local school clerk, who is likely not to be known for his incredible command over the English language, for it is known that such public notices and leaflets are written by the clerks, to write such a notice. So yes take issue with how bluntly it was put, take issue with how rudely they demanded that the fees be paid but do not take issue with a school demanding its due right.
A school is a business; it has to pay property tax, pay the bills, pay salaries, make a profit so that the owners have a salary too. A private school is no longer a place of pure education but a hybrid of business and education. With that noted, we must realise that our fees are crucial to ensuring that the campus, the school, and everyone present within that school receives their due pay. To take issue with the school demanding its due payment is misguided at its best. When you buy a car for eighteen lac, you cannot just pay 10 lac and then be annoyed when the sellers want the other eight lac. The moment you decided to pay for the car, you made a contract that you need to uphold. The simple deal is that you pay them, and they provide you with service.
You could always argue that a private institution should not demand so much money. What needs to be noted is that there is no such thing as a cheap private school. In any country, you visit private schooling is reserved for those who are financially secure. Most parents have to send their children to local schools because the fee is simply out their budget. This idea of staying within your means is something that we seem to have an issue with for some reason. Perhaps we need to accept that our financial status will define what we will get. Until our financial situation improves, we cannot demand more. In that light we cannot demand an education, we cannot possibly afford.
What must also be noted is that private schools in Pakistan often send notes of this calibre out only when the fee is overdue by months. It often shows up as an arrear, and this was something of a common sight in my old school, but never were the students handed a note saying pay or leave. There must be some form of extenuating circumstances to bring on such a note.
It should be mentioned that government schools sadly are unable to uphold a standard of education and that our board of education is severely limiting in job opportunities outside Pakistan. It, however, should also be noted that the system is already against O and A level students in Pakistan by Pakistani Universities. The equivalence is often a stab in the back during A levels. So how do you define a quality education? By getting into a good university in Pakistan? While many private and public schools provide a good education, a government school, bearing in mind the pro and cons, may be a better and more financially stable choice for most parents.
As a student of LUMS, it also must be acknowledged that I may sound like a privileged child. Indeed I recognise the fact I’m privileged, but what has to be noted that while a lot of students in LUMS are well off, a lot such as myself are middle class. My parents would too scream when the fees rose, (and still, do) but it was also something they accepted because they are living in a capitalist country. Parents give their souls to provide their child an education, and it is tragic that we have to sacrifice a quality education because of finance. However, perhaps we should learn to navigate within our limits, and let the child get where he needs to with encouragement. Universities have several scholarship and financial aid programs, even if you have taken the Pakistan board of papers, there is nothing stopping you from going abroad, getting a job, living life. It’s just a lot more hassle. I deplore it, but I also accept it, maybe because I don’t have to deal with it. Nonetheless, it’s a fact we need to accept until we are in a position to change it.
Since we’re on the subject of schools and them becoming institutions of money and not education, perhaps we should shoulder some of the blame for them turning into such atrocities. In this day and age, it is not the responsibility of the student to get the grade but the teachers to get them that grade. In most private schools a teacher has to do their level best to make sure you pass your exams. Otherwise, the teacher is in trouble. After all, aren’t your parents paying to make sure you get good grades?
My old physics teachers used to tell us to attempt all the questions so that at least somehow he could give us 50% marks. However, this does not imply that private schools do not fail students, they do. However, this only happens under extreme circumstances where there is no choice but to fail the child. This image is perhaps the best representation of what a school is like now. Of how most parents can be. As how most teachers tend to suffer.
There is no use in denying it, ask any teacher, and they will vouch for the very truth in this comic.
So with all of this said and done I think we can reasonably conclude that being outraged by the language, by the way, the school conducted itself as demeaning. But to say that asking their due payment is wrong, then you would be incorrect. It is also unfair that we must sacrifice education due to finance, but it’s a reality in most countries, and it’s a reality here too. The school is a business, and this business has no sponsors to help it pay its bills, so it must ask you to pay yours and with that the school is now the villain. Not fair, is it?
*Disclaimer: This article only expresses the view of the author and not of the institution LUMS or of the society LDS.