Apr 25 , 2020

Amid a heated standoff between parents and private schools over tuition, the Ministry of Education has ordered schools and parent committees to sit down and make decisions on payment.

The two parties have been at loggerheads over a monthly school fee, since students have not been going to class following the government's March 16, 2020, decision to close schools for the rest of the academic year as a preventive measure to contain the spread of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Ministry intervened and ordered the two parties to have a discussion and resolve the issue.

After negotiations with the parent committees, private schools should partially or fully spare parents from monthly fees after examining the financial status of individual families, according to the letter that was signed by Geremew Amenu (PhD), state minister for Education.

Parents are obligated to pay 50pc to 75pc of their children’s monthly payments after the administration of the school presents documents that show its monthly expenses to the parent committee. The fee will be allocated after the parent committee approves it.

The decision that was issued on April 20, 2020, also mandates that private schools provide education electronically and keep on paying salaries to the teachers and administrative staff at schools. The schools are supposed to encourage students to learn from home by using various technologies like Telegram and other social media.

The primary purpose of the decision is to enable private school students to have access to education from their homes and to avoid economic and social problems for private school staff, according to the decision.

Before passing the decision, the Ministry conducted a field survey on 36 private schools and held discussions with private school associations and parents.

All private schools should facilitate conditions for parents who cannot afford to pay the monthly fee for reasons related to COVID-19, which is affecting the global economy, according to Wondwosen Tamrat, president of St. Mary’s University and former chairman of the Private Higher Education Institutions Association.

“Parent committees should work together to build stronger bonds with schools,” said Wondwosen.

Private schools should urge teachers and school staff to reduce extra fees paid for transportation and other expenses, according to the decision set by the Ministry.

“The school can't do anything by itself despite the impact on students and parents,” said Marta Demssie, a mother of three, who pays 3,000 Br and 2,700 Br a term for her two children to attend a private school in Sidist Kilo.

After analysing their capacity, private educational institutions should make a 25pc reduction on the monthly student tuition fee for regular and evening classes for the next three months.

An expert in the education sector believes that the decision by the government is valid, since it is beneficial for both parties; however, he has doubts about the practicality of using the digital education system.

“Both parents and private schools should cooperate at this difficult time,” said Abiy Menkir, assistant professor at Bahir Dar University’s College of Education & Behavioral Sciences.

Efforts will be made by the Association to provide private schools with credit services, extensions of loans, and other ways to relieve the sector, according to Molla Tsegaye, president of the Association and board president at Admas University.

The Association will interact with relevant government bodies for the reduction of tax payments; in addition, it will strive to facilitate loans, interest reductions, and loan period extensions from banks.

“Although it’s not going to be like attending classes," said Marta, "education through Telegram will help the children not forget what they have learned."

Most governments around the world have ordered a temporary closure of educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide closures are impacting over 90pc of the world student population, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report.

“Parents who can pay must pay their student's monthly fee, and teachers should make education accessible using as much social media as possible,” said Abiy.

The government should have a long-term plan when it comes to education, he recommended.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 25,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1043]

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