Although the government has shut all educational institutions across the country amid the coronavirus outbreak, a good number of English medium schools in Dhaka are reportedly forcing guardians to pay monthly tuition fees of their children, reports UNB.
Amid such allegations, the Education Ministry has assured of taking strict action if anyone files a complaint over the issue. All educational institutions in Bangladesh were closed on March 18 when the country recorded its first coronavirus death. Later, the shutdown was extended to May 5.
There are around 300 English medium schools across the country and around 200 of them are in the capital city. A number of English medium schools in Dhaka have allegedly been continuing operation defying the government's instruction. Some guardians said they submitted assignments for their children to an English medium school in Dhanmondi area last week.
They received assignments from the students as before, the guardians said. Even, some school authorities are forcing guardians to pay fees on time. While talking to UNB, Liton Sarker, a guardian, said his two children are students of an English medium school in Bashundhara residential area.
He received a text message on his mobile phone from the school on April 5 asking him to pay the monthly tuition fees in due time. "It's now very risky to go to bank for paying the tuition fees [because of coronavirus]. It'd be better if the school authorities receive fees afterthe situation improves," he said, adding that he will not follow the instruction now.
Amina Ratna, president of the Guardians' Association at the school, echoed Sarker. She said most ofthe English medium schools in Dhaka are asking guardians to pay tuition fees in due time. Some are even demanding advance fees, she alleged. "It's too tough to pay fees through banks, bKash and other online payment services. Everyone is now stuck at home and going through a financial hardship, except government staff," she said.
Ratna urged the school authorities not to force the guardians to pay tuition fees. "On behalf of all guardians, I'd say that it'll be better if the schools don't press for fees during such a crisis," she said. The Association president wondered why the schools are failing to pay their staff when guardians regularly pay a handsome amount each month.
Some schools have even started online classes so that they can continue charging tuition fees, she said. Terming it an internal issue of schools, Nizam Uddin, general secretary of the English Medium School Owners' Association, told UNB that it is up to the schools to decide whether they will take tuition fees or not.
Mentioning that private schools cannot run with tuition fees, he said if the guardians stop paying the fees, the authorities will face difficulties in paying salaries of teachers and staff. "We're against receiving advance fees from guardians. We've already spoken with the owners so that they don't take advance fees," he added.
Mahbubur Rahman, secretary to the Secondary and Higher Education Division, said they will definitely take action if the guardians file any complaint over the issue. "No educational institution can remain open when the government declared a shutdown. If any school remains open, we'll take action after looking into it," he said, adding that the schools, however, are allowed to take classes online. Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, said they will take action after looking into it.