Supreme Court Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Wednesday hinted at the enormity of the challenge to get millions of out-of-school children back to schools, warning that such a large number of children that did not receive education could become a national security issue for Pakistan in the future.

CJP Khosa was heading a three-member bench that continued hearing multiple petitions filed by a number of private schools against the apex court’s decision to cap school fee hike at 5% per annum.

Commenting on the state of education, the CJ said private schools only served a fraction of the population, but there was a large number of children that were deprived of education. They could eventually become a “national security issue” in the future, the CJ remarked.

He suggested the government take immediate steps to be prepared with such a massive threat and consider allocating additional funds to the education sector to check this wave of illiteracy.

Justice Khosa said private schools were by no means affordable for the poor masses, even if the schools were asked to reduce fees. “Government schools from which we received education have become of extremely poor standards. Nowadays, many government schools are used as barns by feudal lords,” he said.

The CJ said he was highly concerned about poor children whose talent was being wasted. “My annual fees at Government College of Lahore was Rs 144,” Khosa said, adding that fee at his primary school in DG Khan was only Rs 1.50. He said he had not lagged behind in any way [despite being educated at government schools].

The CJ said private schools had become profitable industries. During the hearing, counsel for City School Shehzad Ellahi contended that the decision to cap fee hike was akin to a slow death for private schools. Upon this, Justice Justice Ijazul Ahsan quoted figures from the balance sheet of City School System, highlighting that the profit earned by the school in a single year amounted to Rs 358 million and the average return on equity was with 36 percent.

“This is some slow death!” Justice Ahsan remarked, adding that it appeared private schools were in a hurry to make all the profit they could possibly make.

Justice Khosa said there were three parties at stake in the preset case – the private schools, legislators who passed the fee capping law, and students and parents.

“Someone must to take care of the interest of the third party in a way that private schools can also grow but without hurting [the education of] children,” The CJ said.

The hearing would resume today (Thursday).

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