Parents trapped by extra school fees

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As children returned to school this month, their parents braced for the unknowable costs of a variety of extra fees charged by schools.

 

Even when they think they have prepared for all the possible extras (which sometimes cover hundreds of items) they are "urged" to pay more.

 

This year, for example, the Tan Phu B Elementary School in the southern province of Binh Duong, asked for fees to pay for cleaners, chairs, and exam papers among others. The extras cost over VND2.7 million ($138.5) in total.

"This year's extras are too high," a parent whose kid is studying at Tan Phu B said on condition of anonymity, adding that the costs amounted to a major burden on many families, as the school asked them to pay all at once.

Another parent said they didn't agree with the extras, but can't help but pay them so their kids could go to school.

 

Meanwhile , the Le Thi Rieng Kindergarten in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1 bought two sets of outdoor equipment at a total of VND70 million (US$3,591)  and then asked parents to pay VND200,000 ($10.26) each to cover the purchase. 

 

Parents there say they have no choice but to shell out the money. 

 

The same situation was reported in Hanoi, where some schools suggested parents donate to "funds for encouraging study" annually with "suggested" minimum.

 

Parents said this year the "suggested" minimum doubled or even tripled those of previous years, between VND1-5 million ($51.3-256.54).

 

They were also urged to "contribute" to buying air-conditioners and computers for their kids.

 

A parent whose kid is studying at Trung Tu Elementary School said the class collected some VND40 million ($2,052) in total from parents to buy a projector.

 

Some parents said they paid because they couldn't stand the thought of their children lacking such facilities.

 

"˜Voluntary contributions'

 

The Ministry of Education banned schools from collecting extra fees that are not regulated years ago, but schools still manage to do it by labeling the extras "voluntary contributions," or "parents' funds."

 

Only when parents lodge official complaints, they say, does the latter interfere.

 

Tran Van On Elementary School in the central city of Da Nang, for example, solicited 99 parents to contrdibute to its "fund for encouraging study." This year's fund totalled over VND87 million ($4,463).

 

Vice Principle Nguyen Cong Tan said the fund aimed to support poor students and grant awards to students with good performances at the end of school year.

 

However, the city's authorities (which had banned fundraising from parents) censured the school's management board and asked them to return the money following several complaints.

 

In the meantime, according to many schools, they have to collect the extras because the allotted fees don't cover all their expenditures.

 

A school principal in HCMC's District 10 said fees that they collect for facility maintenance in accordance with regulations, in fact, can only covered the repairs made to a single bathroom.

 

So, they have to rely on parents for other things like trees or speakers, according to the principal.

 

Pham Trung Dung, principal of Thang Long High School in Hanoi,  said that up to 60 percent of the state budget and tuitions are spent on teacher salaries.

 

However, Huynh Cong Minh, director of the HCMC Department of Education and Training, said: "Without parents' contributions, the state still gives schools minimum investment they need for their operations."

 

He said they have reminded local schools not to collect unregulated extras many times, stressing that schools shouldn't "cause problems to parents and affect education's prestige, just because of immediate needs."

 

In the meantime, Pham Thi Hong Nga, vice director of Hanoi's Department of Education and Training, said they have submitted a proposal to adjust tuition fees to the People's Council as a measure to stop schools from collecting excessive extras.

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