Khalid Khattak writes in the NEWS; exposes how some private schools might be indulging in invisible extortion.
SOME private schools force students to purchase books and uniforms at prescribed stores, though amid a protest by children and parents.
The practice has helped people to develop a chain of uniform/book shops, like schools, where products, such as books, uniforms and stationery etc, are sold at fixed prices. Parents are asked to buy them at selected stores only, which according to many, exposes them to overcharging.
Talking to The News, parents expressed their concern over the increasing trend and urged Education Department officials to take notice of the situation and provide relief to them. They said substandard and low quality products, especially uniforms, were sold at the shops at high prices as compared to the open market.
They hold the Education Department responsible for the increasing trend of prescribed bookshops, saying that the practice was adopted by private schools to “extort” money from people.
Arslan, whose children go to a private school, said buying books and uniforms at selected shops sometimes made lives of parents miserable as the items were provided at high prices as compared to the open market.
“One cannot even question the quality of products, like uniforms, as it is mandatory to buy them at particular stores,” he added.
Tanveer, father of a school going student, said, “The purchase of uniforms and books at selected shops might be suitable for people whose children study in elite schools. However, it troubles middle class, as people are deprived of their right to buy products at affordable rates in the open market.”
“Most private schools sign deals with big stores and earn commissions on the sale of books and uniforms, that’s why the trend is becoming popular among the management of private schools,” Tahir, whose children attend a private school in the Defence area, said. Another stakeholder said, “Most uniform and bookshops are owned by the family of school managements, because of which it is made mandatory for students to buy stationery at particular stores. This is why one can find a chain of uniform shops, like a chain of schools.”
Haroon, whose children go to an elite private school, said the exercise was good as it saved people from fatigue by visiting different shops for shopping. “Everything is available under one roof and above all, one does not have to bargain,” he added.
Talking to The News, All Pakistan Private Schools Welfare Association (APPSWA) President Syed Zulqernain Shah said most private schools had adopted the practice to ensure discipline. “That’s why every student wears the same uniform,” he argued.
He rejected the allegation that some shops were owned by schools or a commission was received on the sale of books and uniforms. “Products at the shops are guaranteed while quality is also ensured,” he added.
Talking about the purchase of books at particular shops, he said the step had been taken by some schools to ensure quality and curb the trend of selling pirated books.
All Pakistan Private Schools Owners Association (APPSOA) President Mirza Kashif Ali said the system had been adopted by most private schools to facilitate parents and students. “They do not have to visit different stores. However, one should condemn it if schools have turned the activity into a business,” he added.
When contacted, Punjab Education Secretary Kazi Afaq Hossain expressed his ignorance of the issue and the department’s role, saying he had recently joined the department and was not fully aware of issues. He asked the scribe to contact the special secretary (schools), but he was not available for comments.