Minister of Education and Technical Education Tarek Shawki will issue a ministerial decree within the coming few days that seeks to end the ongoing dispute between private schools and parents over blown tuition fees.
The decree annuls any financial deals between the school and parents. Parents will pay tuition fees in banks after ministry officials estimate the cost. Parents will only pay the fees which the Ministry of Education has informed the bank with.
According to the decree, the ministry will be responsible for assessing bus fees which will also be paid at the bank. Parents should not pay fees other than that paid at the bank. Schools which will not abide by the ministerial decree will be subject to a hefty fine.
The bank, according to the new regulations, would pay the tuition fees on behalf of parents who cannot afford it in return for an interest rate of seven per cent.
The regulation prohibits schools from changing school uniforms — which schools used to do every year or two — burdening parents with the cost of buying new ones.
Reda Hegazi, deputy to the minister of education, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the decree was issued to put an end to what he called exaggerated fees “as most schools ask for fees which do not necessarily reflect the quality of services they offer. The government wants to know how much these schools collect in order to collect the required taxes on these amounts,” Hegazi said.
In order to enforce the decree, senior officials in the country’s educational directorates and departments will be changed to guarantee an impartial relationship between them and school owners.
Hoda Suleiman, a head principal of an international school, said the ministry had not informed her school with the decision but insists she will negotiate.
“Many schools have shouldered extra costs during the past few months, much more than last year, to upgrade their systems to accommodate e-learning,” Suleiman said. “There are still further updates required in order to accommodate the new circumstances. Where will we get the money from?” asked Suleiman who said that at the end, schools would abide by the regulations.
Mona Mahmoud, a mother of three school students, said the ministerial decree would be the best way to solve “the greediness of private schools. “We pay for our children a huge and exaggerated amount of money. I believe when the ministry will be responsible for estimating the fees, they will be less than now,” Mahmoud said.
Salem Ibrahim, a father of two in a private school, noted that what he pays for his children’s school is more than the average of other private schools. He said every time he complains, the school administration says it is presenting “a unique educational service”, Ibrahim said.
Ministry officials will meet with stakeholders after the minister signs the decree to clarify any misunderstandings, Education Ministry Spokesman Mahmoud Hassouna said.
Shawki said private schools are not obliged to return second semester tuition fees following the suspension of the academic year due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Parents have been seeking school refunds of at least 15 per cent of second semester fees and 90 per cent in bus fees. “Schools are not laying off teachers and teachers’ salaries account for nearly 70 per cent of the overall costs at my school,” principal Suleiman said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 May, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under headline: Taming monster tuition