Hanoi officials call for probes into extra fees at schools

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Hanoi education officials on Tuesday said many schools in the city have been charging students illegal fees, many of which are disguised as "voluntary" money.


Some fees are charged due to the schools low-budget, but many others are unnecessary and make low-income parents uncomfortable, the officials were cited as saying in a Tuoi Tre report.


Pham Thi Hong Nga, deputy director of the city Department of Education and Training, said at a meeting that the Law of Education requires students to pay nothing other than the tuition and entrance exam fees.


But schools around the city have charged students between five to seven additional fees, Nga said.


In 2010, students at many local schools paid money for cleaning, security, meals, drinking water, parking, and costumes, she said.


Nga said that the department sent a statement asking schools to stop charging fees on cleaning, drinking water, security and parking, after the city government announced to double the budget for education.


However, there are other fees including body insurance and awards for well-performing students that have nothing to do with schools' budget, but the students are still forced to pay.


Tran The Vuong, head of Hanoi People's Aspiration Department, said at the meeting that the city government should investigate the insurance fee.


Vuong said the insurance is voluntary but schools have made it an obligation to students.


He expressed suspicion that some insurers might ask schools to force students to buy the insurance and then pay the schools a commission.


"The city government has to clarify such matter," Vuong said.


Meanwhile, another extra fee called "study encouragement fund" was set by rich parents in the disguise of voluntary money, the report said.


The fund was created with good intentions, but it has made poor parents uncomfortable if they don't volunteer, said Nga and other officials at the meeting.


Ha Quang Long, deputy head of the city People's Aspiration Department, said that many parents cannot avoid the fund even if they are not able or don't want to contribute.


Long said representatives of parents' associations are usually rich and they would suggest high levels for "voluntary" contribution.


But low or middle-income parents still have to follow as they're afraid that their children will be treated differently, he said. "Then the contribution becomes obligatory."


Vuong said it is a painful reality that schools and parents are setting up extra illegal fees on their own.


He suggested the city government create a survey to find out how many fees local students have been paying, how they have been spent, and identify which fees are necessary in order to make amendments to the law.


Nguyen Van Tho, deputy director of Hanoi Finance Department, also questioned that why some schools charge costume fees, instead of leaving the parents take care of the clothes.


Tho suggested the city government to "dismiss the principals" of any schools that deliberately set up illegal fees.


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