Parents trapped in a web of school fees

Published: 01/09/2009 05:00


Tenth-grade students of Nguyen Thuong Hien High School in HCMC.

The numerous, unwarranted and often illegal fees being charged by public schools are just too much for most parents.

Late last month, parents of children at Phu Minh Elementary School in Hanoi’s Phu Xuyen District complained to reporters that the school was charging them 23 different fees, many of them unwarranted and unreasonable.

To name but a few, there are fees for the “trees care fund”, “souvenirs”, and four kinds of handwriting notebooks, including “handwriting-practice notebooks with sample block letters” and “handwriting-practice notebooks with sample sloping letters”.

Principal Bui Thi Hoa admitted that only two of the fees were official – tuition for children who attend school all day rather than just morning or afternoon, and “stationery attrition”.

Hoa maintained that other fees had in fact been suggested by parents, for the teachers to collect.

Few parents would back her on that one.

“The school is charging us very unreasonable fees. It looks like they made them up just to get money,” one of them told the newswire Dan Tri.

Nguyen Thi Le Hang, head of Phu Xuyen District’s education department, said the only regulated fees for elementary school kids in the district were for the youth union fund, insurance premium, and tuition for full-day classes, VOVNews reports.

Her department has asked Phu Minh Elementary to explain its fees in writing.

Donate or else

It’s a common practice all over Vietnam, even though the 2005 Education Law limits legitimate school fees to enrolment and tuition.

Nguyen Hiep Thong, office manager of Hanoi’s education department, said that, ahead of the new school year starting soon this month, schools had been told not to charge other than the regulated fees.

Yet most of them still have a range of fees they describe as “voluntary” and which are to be collected at the beginning of the school year and later on by the Parents and Teachers Associations, he said.

The most common “voluntary” fee is nominally for repairing and improving school buildings and amenities.

Dong Hoi Elementary in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District, for example, has asked parents to pay VND20,000 for the construction fund, as well as VND45,000 for “educational sponsorship”, whatever that is.

The school charges a construction and repair fee every year, yet the schoolyard still gets flooded whenever it rains, and the toilet blocks are dirty and in poor condition, said a parent who wished to stay anonymous.

Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, also in Hanoi, sent an open letter to parents wanting to enroll their kids in first or sixth grade, asking them to contribute between VND300,000 and VND500,000 for its “Major Repair Fund”.

The outrageous demand was brought to the education department’s attention when parents who had paid the money failed to get their children admitted.

Nguyen Dinh Chieu was eventually ordered to refund all the parents, whether their kids had got in or not.

The situation is no different down the coast in Da Nang, where a mother with a child at elementary school complained to Thanh Nien a while back that she had paid VND400,000 towards the cost of equipment for the school’s e-teaching project.

Now she has to cough up a further VND300,000 for repairing the equipment.

She said many parents were annoyed about the fees but paid them anyway rather than jeopardize their children’s education.

Thanh Nien observed that most of Da Nang’s major primary schools required parents to make “voluntary donations” totaling VND150,000 to VND600,000, on top of the other fees they must pay.

Dizzy in the head

While the education ministry’s proposal that tuition fees must not be more than six percent of the average family’s income this school year has been approved, parents are already burdened by the extra money they must pay whenever a new school year starts.

Hoang, whose child attends a secondary boarding school in Ho Chi Minh City, was asked to pay over VND2 million in advance, a sum that ate up most of her family’s monthly income.

She was then given a list of extra fees, totaling VND2 million again, for the school’s Education Development Fund, meals, electricity and what-not.

Anh Nguyet, whose child goes to Nguyen Trai High School in Ho Chi Minh City, said she had borrowed VND2 million to buy necessities like uniforms and textbooks.

Nguyet is dreading the thought of having to pay the as-yet unannounced extra fees.

“I’ll find out how much more it will be at the parents’ meeting next week,” Nguyet said.

Another mother complained that her child’s kindergarten was demanding VND250,000 for monthly tuition, VND600,000 in annual infrastructure fees, and money for meals, “hygiene” and other things.

Sang, whose child attends secondary school in Ho Chi Minh City, is bewildered, angry and despondent in turn.

“When the school year starts, there’s bound to be more trivial fees like for extra classes and the Parents and Teachers Association. It makes my head hurt,” he said.

Source: Thanh Nien, Tuoi Tre

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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