Teachers, students hit by English training center's sudden closure

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Hundreds of teachers and students have been left in the lurch after an English language school in Ho Chi Minh City closed down without notice after its alleged sales to an overseas Vietnamese, who denies he has bought it yet.

On Saturday many people took their children to the Alpha Foreign Language Center as usual but found it closed.

Several teachers said they had not received their salaries for the past two months, and carried away two computers from the center with the consent of the guards, saying they would use it as evidence for not being paid.

Many students' parents said the center had unusually pestered them to pay the fees recently.

"Recently the center phoned me, sometimes several times a day," a woman told Thanh Nien.

"It also asked me to pay an extra VND1 million (US$47) for a picnic with foreign teachers saying my child was the best student in the class. But no picnic was organized."

Diep Thi Kim Xuan, director of Thai Duong Company which owns Alpha, said the company had sold all four language centers -- in District 5, Binh Thanh, and Thu Duc in HCMC and in Binh Duong Province's Di An town -- to Tran Tat Trung, a Vietnamese-Australia, on April 5, and no longer has any responsibility for them.

Trung denied this, saying the sale was not complete because Xuan had cheated him.

"We planned to invest in the centers. However, we "¦ suspended the seal," he said. The problems included lack of licenses for some of the branches, contracts with employees, and social insurance for teachers, and failure to pay rent for some of the branches, he said.

On April 27 he learnt out of the blue that he had become the new owner and that the business was registered in his name.

"It was strange since we did not apply to the HCMC Department of Planning and Investment or sign any [other] documents for the sale or business registration."

Unpaid teachers' salaries and advance fee collections added up to around VND300 million ($14,300), he said.

Pham Anh Ba of the city Department of Education and Training said last week his agency was not aware of the sale.

"We will look into the case immediately. Any solution will ensure the interests of the students are protected."

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