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Dhaka Tribune

Private school tuition fees crisis: Authorities in tight corner, guardians demand 50% reduction

Dhaka Education Board Chairman Prof Ziaul Haque asked the genuine guardians to come with proper documents and recommendations to resolve the issue

Update : 14 Jul 2020, 02:07 PM

Guardians of students of private schools have demanded a 50% waiver of tuition fees due to the economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, while the authorities of the schools are taking regular fees or pressing the guardians for the fees to save their staff and institutions amid the pandemic.

Forums of parents have complained that the authorities of English medium schools threatened to discontinue online classes unless they pay the tuition fees fully even in the ongoing coronavirus emergency.

On the contrary, the authorities said the coronavirus pandemic put them in a tight corner to run their educational institutions.

It has become impossible for them now to pay the rent of schools, salaries to teachers and employees, and bear other expenses if they do not get full tuition fees, their main source of income, they said.

Meanwhile, kindergarten owners echoed the same crisis which has forced them to shut their institutions or sell those due to the cash crunch.

Under the circumstances, the Ministry of Education is yet to take any apparent initiative in aiding private schools, though the education minister said both the parents and the institution authorities have to take humanitarian decisions regarding the issue.

All schools, colleges, and universities of the country have been closed since March 18 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, increasing the impetus for the online education system.

Picture of English medium school

Parents of students of English medium schools demanded a reduction in tuition fees as many of them turned jobless or their income has reduced drastically owing to the pandemic.

On July 11, Parents' Forum of Mastermind English Medium School in Dhaka formed a human chain demanding a 50% waiver of tuition fees. The forum also sent a letter to the Ministry of Education over the issue.

Shomy Ibrahim, a member of the forum, said the school authorities asked the parents to clear their pending fees by Tuesday, otherwise, they will drop the students who will be unable to pay. 

The forum, however, staged a peaceful demonstration at the school's Dhanmondi campus on Tuesday against the authorities’ move to drop students.

During the demonstration, the guardians reiterated their four-point demands that include the 50% waiver of tuition fees, giving adequate time to guardians for paying the due fees, and meanwhile, no student should not be dropped from online classes.

Earlier in April, Parents' Forum of DPS STS School Dhaka sent a letter to the prime minister seeking her intervention over the tuition fees reduction.

However, the guardians are yet to get any response from the government.

AKM Ashraful Haque, convener of Parents' Forum at English medium schools, claimed that most of the parents belong to the middle class and are now in a financial crisis which makes them unable to pay the monthly tuition fees of Tk5,000 to Tk50,000 after maintaining family expenses.

He further said as the online classes are not so expensive, it is not fair to pay the regular tuition fees.

Concern of the school authorities

Two private school operators told Dhaka Tribune that the high-income people, in general, come to admit their children to such institutions which provide education based on international standards.

"Our teachers and staff are working more actively to prepare their online class contents and lessons during the pandemic," they said.

"Now, if we receive lower tuition fees, we will not be able to keep our teachers and conduct the academic activities properly due to the fund crisis."

An official of the Mastermind school said the monthly tuition fees are their only source of income and they have no option but to charge the students. They are struggling to continue the academic tasks amid the pandemic. 

"If we want to ensure proper evaluation and provide quality classes, there is no alternative to paying the full tuition fees. Otherwise, we have to cut jobs of teachers and staff along with reduction of their salaries," he added.

Apart from the English medium schools, kindergartens have also been hit hard as Bangladesh Teachers Association President Nazrul Islam Rony said, due to a lack of financial support, some of the kindergartens are now fully closed while some institutions are being sold.

However, Bangladesh Kindergarten Association and Bangladesh Kindergarten School o College Oikya Parishad along with English Medium Schools Association of Bangladesh demanded the government announce an incentive package for them.

Concern of the Education Ministry

Director General of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education Syed Mohammad Golam Faruk said he was informed verbally from two guardians about the issue of tuition fees.

In this case, he emphasized on the directive of the Education Minister Dipu Moni who urged both the school authorities and the guardians to negotiate for overcoming the situation.

Dhaka Education Board Chairman Prof Ziaul Haque said they have not received any letter and complaint from guardians over the matter.

He asked the genuine guardians to come with proper documents and recommendations to resolve the issue.

"If any guardian fails to pay the fees due to the financial crisis, we will sit with the school authorities and solve the problem."

However, experts said the government needs to regulate the functioning of private schools so that they become institutions of learning rather than centres of exploitation.

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