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Pakistani netizens raised their voices for accessible education for all after one of the country's top universities, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) announced a hike in fees and the Sindh government announced the education policy for the academic year 2020-2021.

LUMS came under fire on May 5 after it announced a 41 per cent increase in its semester fee.

Students and the general public took to social media to condemn the educational institution’s decision of increasing the fee, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, according to the LUMS vice-chancellor, the decision was taken before the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the Express Tribune, a newspaper in Pakistan, reported.

“LUMS fees for 2020 were determined before COVID-19 that is entirely consistent with prior years and took into account extraordinary increases in inflation, energy costs and currency devaluation,” a statement from Arshad Ahmed reportedly stated.

He further explained that the increase determined for 2020 was 13 per cent, which will be monitored to determine the next fee card.

Ahmed further said that the LUMS fee covers a fraction of the total costs.

“As a not-for-profit university, gifts from donors, trustees, etc. helps to subsidise one out of three students,” he added.

Quality education reserved for the elite, say netizens

Soon after the announcement, #LUMSFeeHike started trending on Twitter. Many social media users criticised the move and highlighted that quality education needs to available to everyone, despite of social background.

Tweep @ammaralijan wrote: “Outrageous that LUMS and FCU [Forman Christian College], two private universities in Lahore, increased their fee during the lock down. It’s an attack on parents & students who are already struggling. Our youth will continue to suffer unless we save education system from private mafias. #LUMSFeeHike”

Many also insinuated that the university caters only to the "elite".

Twitter user @schaheid wrote: “Its not about money, its about the brand. LUMS knows its target market, and our 1 per cent rich […] elite will not mind paying a little extra to (a) make the University more elitist and (b) drive out middle class students so more seats are made available to rich […] kids. #LUMSFeeHike”

Tweep @mehmoood7 wrote: “LUMS was built on the agenda of creating the elite social club. LUMS will keep raising the fees until left with the super rich ones. #LUMSFeeHike”

#SindhWantsQualityEducation

In a separate incident, #SindhWantsQualityEducation started trending on Twitter in Pakistan on May 6 as the Sindh government announced a new education policy at the end of April.

People highlighted the importance of education, the fact that many in Sindh remain out of schools and that better policies need to be in place.

Twitter user @SaimaMirani1 wrote: “Every child is unique.He or she has her unique personality traits, interests, preferences, values, attitudes, strengths, and weaknesses The educational curriculum must be able to help every child find his or her unique place. #SindhWantsQualityEducation”

Similarly, tweep @AhmedRazaKhoso8 posted: “Education is the most fundamental right of every child as per constitution, But Alas every third child is out from school in Sindh, hasn't made any fruitful policy for betterment of education and provide quality of education. #SindhWantsQualityEducation”

The gender gap in the number of school-going children is also a major issue in Sindh, particularly its rural areas.

In 2019, Pakistani media outlets reported results of an investigative study on education in Sindh. According to the report, the enrolment ratio of schoolgirls in Sindh had declined to 39 per cent as compared to 61 per cent of boys, Pakistan Today reported.