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ISLAMABAD: After facing heavy criticism from students and their parents, the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) here on Thursday ordered schools and colleges not to collect transportation fees until the “final decision” in this regard.

“The issue of transport funds for the buses is under consideration at the highest level and should be decided soon. All Heads of Schools and School Management Committees (SMC) and College Management Committees (CMC ) may withhold the collection of transportation costs from the parents until the final decision which would be transmitted accordingly,” reads a press release published by the FDE.

He said that in the meantime, the bus facility should remain operational for all institutions and education officials in the region should notify all concerned.

Recently, the FDE had empowered the SMCs and CMCs to manage the school transport service on a cost-sharing basis in accordance with the federal cabinet decision taken last year. In light of this, SMCs and CMCs had decided to charge students from Rs1,500 to Rs2,500, a step that confused students and their parents.

Said the bus facility will remain operational

Furthermore, the parents had already deposited Rs 5,000 in bus fees for one year at the start of this school year and as such they had started to object to the new monthly fees.

They had also asked the CEO of the FDE and the Federal Minister of Education to withdraw the decision concerning the collection of monthly transport costs.

The FDE, by an October 14 notification, had authorized the SMCs and CMCs to operate the buses on a cost-sharing basis.

“In accordance with Cabinet approval on 2-2-2021 regarding the policy for the operationalization of buses in FDE and in accordance with the 2021 rule of the right to free and compulsory education and the management committee of schools and colleges, the buses will be operated by the School/College Management Committees (SMC/CMC). Expenses and revenues will be managed locally by the SMC/CMC with notified monthly rates for students,” reads the previous notification.

All institutions were invited through this notification to form bus management committees and mobilize resources through the SMCs/CMCs by involving the community and parents.

The bus management committee was also supposed to ensure proper record keeping.

An EDF official said that in April this year, the Ministry of Finance rejected the education directorate’s summary calling for the creation of positions for 171 drivers and 214 conductors. He said that as such, SMCs and CMCs were also asked to hire drivers and conductors themselves.

During the PML-N government from 2013 to 2018, the FDE purchased 200 buses for schools and colleges, but the funds were not allocated for fuel and driver and conductor salaries.

As a result, most buses remained parked as educational institutions were unable to operate them. The issue remained in the news for a few years and was also discussed at several standing committee meetings.

Posted in Dawn, November 4, 2022

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