When many guardians, either having lost their jobs or wages cut amid the coronavirus pandemic, are struggling to pay their children’s tuition fees, schools plead with them to make the payment on an urgent basis.
The schools say they are running out of funds quickly and that they desperately need the money to continue disbursing salaries to teachers and other staff.
The guardians, however, say the educational institutions have remained closed since March and only a handful of them took online classes. So giving them tuition fees for April, May and June in full, which they have asked via text messages, was not “logical”.
Tension over the issue is growing between the parents and the schools, and experts say the problem can be solved by providing the institutions with government funds.
Talking to The Daily Star, several guardians have meanwhile demanded the fees be waived for at least six months from March.
Some said they were finding it hard to run their families as their income has been slashed, while some asked why they would pay since regular classes did not take place for months.
One of them is a mother of two, who are students at a renowned school in the capital’s Moghbazar. She said the school authorities have been contacting her via SMS, asking her to pay tuition fees through a mobile money transfer application.
“They introduced online classes on Facebook only early this month. But they are telling us to pay tuition fees since March. This is ridiculous,” she said, demanding a waiver of the fees.
Another guardian — father of a student of a school in Narayanganj’s Uttar Chashara — shared something similar. “Online classes began in late May, but they are demanding tuition fees for April, May and June,” he said.
Replying to a query on the issue, Belal Hossain, director of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education (DSHE), said they had not received any complaints that schools are demanding tuition fees despite not taking online classes.
A guardian of a Class-II student at the capital’s Monipur High School and College said the school authorities did not take any steps to arrange online classes exclusively for their students.
“Recorded classes are being broadcast on a private television channel. Despite this, they are asking us to pay the fees,” he said.
Contacted, Mohammad Farhad Hossain, principal of the school, said they introduced classes, aired on TV, for all grades. “The classes are taking place rotation-wise. It might be the case that some guardians and students may have missed some of the classes.”
He said they could not pay teachers’ salaries due to a fund crisis and urged the guardians to clear the fees as quickly as possible.
Asked, he said the school does not have any reserve fund for paying the teachers and other employees.
Talking to this correspondent, teachers said there were only a handful of schools in the city which were still able to disburse the salaries from their savings, without having to be completely dependent on students’ tuition fees.
Parents said the authorities of South Point School and College, Ideal School and College, Motijheel, Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, Shamsul Hoque Khan School and College, among other renowned schools in the capital, were collecting the fees.
Hamida Ali, principal of South Point School and College, and Prof Fougia, principal of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, said they need the fees to pay their teachers and other employees. Both said tuition fees were the only source of income to meet the schools’ expenditure.
English medium schools like East West International School and Delhi School are also collecting the fees.
Mastermind School has requested parents to clear outstanding dues, including tuition fees for the month of June. In a notice, it said taking the current coronavirus situation into consideration, parents are allowed to pay half of the tuition fees for April, May and June.
DPS STS School authorities in statement on June 8 said there would be no hike in tuition fees for 2020-2021. The yearly tuition fee payment can be made in 10 installments, instead of the previous four, without paying any additional charges.
Meanwhile, Ziaul Kabir Dulu, president of Obhibhabok Oikya Forum, a platform of guardians, said he sent a letter to Education Minister Dipu Moni recently, demanding that tuition fees be waived from March to August.
He said most schools and colleges were not taking classes since March 17, when the institutions were closed across the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Later, the government said those may not reopen till September if the situation did not improve.
“The pandemic has disrupted all economic activities. About 80 percent guardians have either lost their jobs or are on the verge of losing them. They are grappling with paying for the living expenses of their families and house rents. In such a situation, it is not possible for them to pay the tuition fees,” he said.
At a webinar in the capital yesterday, Dipu Moni said both schools and the guardians have to act in a humanitarian way. She urged the school authorities to take the fees in installments and give discounts if possible. She also urged the guardians to pay the fees, if they are able to do that, so that teachers can get their salaries.
“The institutions whose financial condition is not good can look for loans. We can help them in this regard,” she said.
Asked, DSHE Director Belal Hossain said they had not been given any specific directive on the matter yet.
‘GIVE GRANTS TO SCHOOLS’
When his attention was drawn to the issue, Dhaka University Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said it was an unprecedented problem caused by the coronavirus.
“More than 90 to 95 percent of the secondary schools are non-government. The government should immediately provide assistance to the schools so that they can pay teachers immediately,” he said.
There are 20,465 schools across the country with around one crore students, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics.
In the long run, the government can think about nationalisation of education and on top of everything, budgetary allocation for the education sector should increase, he added.
Brac University Professor Emeritus Manzoor Ahmed also said the government should give grants to schools so that they can pay teachers their salaries on time.
Both the guardians and the school authorities should act reasonably, he added.