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All educational institutions in the country have been closed since 18 March due to coronavirus. These will ostensibly remain closed till 31 August, but government sources say it will not be possible to reopen these institutions until the coronavirus situation is under control. The students’ studies have been affected and guardians say that the standard of online classes is not satisfactory.

Ideal School and College has around 26,000 students in its three campuses. The monthly schools fees are just over Tk 1,300 and college fees Tk 2,100. The matter of decreasing the fees has been taken to court.

A contractor living in Gopibagh, speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, said his son studied in Class 5. He said he had no income for the past 5 months and was facing problems in paying his son’s fees.

Former chairman of the Dhaka education board, Taslima Begum, told Prothom Alo, on one hand the teachers must be paid their salaries and on the other hand the guardians are facing a financial crisis. Both sides will have to make some compromise and reach an understanding.

Principal of the school, Shahan Ara Begum, speaking to Prothom Alo, said the institution has around 800 employees, 116 of whom are MPO enlisted, receiving their basic monthly salary from the government. The rest receive their salaries and allowances from the institution. She asked, unless the students’ fees are paid, how will the teachers and employees be given their salaries? And no pressure was given to pay the fees. Around three months’ time was given to pay the tuition fees. Online classes are being conducted. There has been no decision to reduce the tuition fees.

The guardians of English medium school Mastermind’s students have launched a movement, demanding that fees be cut by 50 percent for as long as the classes are online. They have already held two human chain programmes and a sit-in demonstration.

One of the parents, Shomi Ibrahim, told Prothom Alo that her child was in Nursery and the monthly fees was Tk 15,000. She said it was a lot of pressure to pay this amount at this time. She said the school’s expenditure also must have lessened due to the closure, with classes being held online and so they should take only 50 percent of the fees. The school authorities do not agree.

Guardians of another English medium school in the capital, South Breeze, have put forward a five-point demand, including a 50 percent cut in fees.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics, there are 13.4 million students studying at the secondary level in the country. There are 21,000 schools, of which around 90 percent are non-government. Many of these secondary schools have a primary level too. There are around 4,500 colleges with around 4.4 million students. Most of these are non-government too. There are around 17.5 million students at the primary level but as most of the primary schools are government schools, there are no fees problems.

The main problems are being faced by the English medium schools and the secondary and higher secondary non-government schools. The English medium schools totally depend on school fees. And government pays only the basic salary and a small amount of the allowances of some of the teachers and employees of the non-government schools which are MPO enlisted. The salaries of the remaining teachers and employees are from the tuition fees. So the schools are under pressure too.

According to official records, there are 145 English medium schools with around 11,000 students. Unofficial records put the numbers higher. Previously only children of wealthy families studied in English medium schools, but now children of the middle class study here too.

A guardian working for a private company, speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, said his two children studied at Playpen in Basundhara of the capital city. One was in Class 10 and the other in Class 5. He managed somehow to pay the fees for the elder child to continue with online classes, but the younger child’s fees were no paid and so he could not take the online classes. He said this put mental pressure on the child. The elder child’s fees were over Tk 12 thousand a month and the younger’s was Tk 10,280.

The guardians of this school too have been demanding a decrease in fees. Sources in the school said that previous a reduced fee for two months was taken from the guardians, but not after online classes commenced.

The Bangladesh English Medium School Parents Forum held a press conference at the beginning of July, demanding a 50 percent reduction in school fees.

On 15 July, Dhaka City College issued a notice saying that all higher secondary level students would be promoted to Class 12 for which the tuition fees and other charges would have to be paid by 19 to 23 July. The fee per student is Tk 20,450.

Guardians submitted an appeal to the YWCA higher secondary girls’ school in the capital city on 12 July, asking for the school fees to be halved. But these fees have not been reduced.

Former chairman of the Dhaka education board, Taslima Begum, told Prothom Alo, on one hand the teachers must be paid their salaries and on the other hand the guardians are facing a financial crisis. Both sides will have to make some compromise and reach an understanding.

This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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