City managers in a fix about schools in residential areas

Source: Published in Education on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ISLAMABAD: City managers are in a fix about taking action against 293 private schools functioning in residential areas in violation of the CDA by-laws.

On the directions of the Supreme Court, the civic agency has been sealing commercial outlets operating in residential areas. During the last hearing of the case held on January 21, the apex court directed the CDA to implement its ruling on the non-conforming use of residential houses in Islamabad without any exception.

“We are moving forward to seal the commercial outlets. Following the directives of the apex court, we prepared a plan of action against the non-conforming uses of residential houses. As per our plan, the schools will be our last target. We will seal all the private schools functioning in residential areas,” said an officer of the CDA requesting not to be named.

“But we are in a fix too. If all of a sudden we seal the schools what will be the fate of the students? This question perturbs us and we have to come up with a workable formula.”

Under Supreme Court directions, CDA is supposed to seal all 293 institutions operating in residential buildings

He said as a permanent solution, before sealing these schools, the CDA should allot plots to the owners for the immediate construction of school buildings.

Meanwhile, an official of the CDA planning directorate said to accommodate all the 293 schools, the civic agency would have to create new plots. But so far, he added, no such proposal was under consideration.

There are 353 private schools in the urban areas of the federal capital with the student strength of 77,477. Of the total institutions, 293 are functioning in the residential areas.

“It’s a big issue, how can you seal around 300 schools without providing them alternative lands and sufficient time for the construction of new buildings,” said the officer.

Meanwhile, the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) requested the CDA to allow the utilisation of the existing premises by the private schools for preferably two years.

“Recently, we took up the issue of providing alternative land to the private schools which are operating in residential areas,” said Imtiaz Qureshi, the member PEIRA.

The president Private School Association, Zofran Elahi, said the CDA should come up with a workable solution.

He said offering plots to all private schools was not a practical solution. “Purchasing plots will not be a big deal for elite schools but a majority of low cost schools are operating in rented buildings and it will not be easy for their operators to arrange millions of rupees to purchase plots and then construct buildings,” he said and added that CDA should build school buildings in Sector G-I where most of the low cost schools were functioning.

He said if the federal government could spend Rs45 billion on the metro bus project, why it could not build around 100 buildings to accommodate the private schools.

Speaking to Dawn, a senior officer requesting not be named said the civic agency would openly auction school plots in phases.

CDA spokesman Ramzan Sajid said private schools would be dealt with in accordance with rules and regulations. “We are working on various plans. The schools can be allotted alternative lands.” He said in the past the CDA allotted plots to private educational institutions but some of the plots are still undeveloped. It may be added that the CDA has so far allotted over 40 plots to school owners on subsidised rates. 

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