Coronavirus in UAE: Parents call for fee relief as learning goes online

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School authorities revealed their limitations saying institutions need to take pragmatic decisions.

With learning going digital as a precautionary measure against the spread of Covid-19, parents in the country have raised concerns about paying transportation and uniform fees in addition to full tuition fees. They have pointed to the Emirates National Schools, which recently exempted parents from paying transportation and nutrition fees until the distance education scheme is in place.

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Students across the country are continuing their education via e-learning as actual classes remain suspended.

“I have paid transportation fees for my two kids for the entire year. It is said that schools would resume functioning on April 5, but I feel the uncertainty over Covid-19 will extend the distance learning initiative beyond this period. So, they should either look at refunding or adjusting this amount,” said a Syrian mother, who is the sole breadwinner of her family.

Another parent from an Indian school echoed similar sentiments. “I have paid the bus fees for three months and it is a significant amount. The schools are now giving deadlines to deposit tuition fees. Isn’t this unfair in the reigning situation?”

Madhulika Chatterjee, whose daughter is a year 9 student of Jumeirah Girls College, said she doesn’t expect a complete waiver but wants the school to give some discounts. “We are being asked to pay term fees which is understandable as schools are continuing with their eLearning programmes.

Also, teaching and non-teaching staff need to be paid. Yet, certain relaxations on uniforms and textbooks can be considered as it’s all online now.”
Malaysian resident Adeela, who is a mother of two, said: “Virtual learning is on and electricity consumption at school premises is not happening as much. Children are not using facilities like swimming pools, gyms or library either. So, a partial discount should be given to the parents.”

Schools trying their best

Acknowledging parental concerns, school authorities revealed their limitations saying institutions need to take pragmatic decisions.

“Schools cannot take a unilateral decision on this. eLearning is on in full swing. Therefore, teachers, housekeeping teams as well as contractors need to be paid. Other bills like the civil defence, municipality, electricity biwlls and licencing fees also need to be taken care off,” said Zubair Ahmad, head of HR and administration, Springdales School Dubai.

“School revenues are directly proportional t school fees. This has to be a collective decision. Relaxations need to come from the regulator. We are waiting for the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) directives,” he added.

Meanwhile, GEMS Education spokesperson responded to Khaleej Times with an earlier statement. “Our Parent Experience Centre team continues to be on hand to assist our parent community to discuss all fee-related queries and concerns.”

Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity Education, said: “We have designated Parent Relation Executives who are available throughout the day and over the weekends to ensure any questions or doubts from parents are addressed and responded to immediately. We will continue to effectively communicate with all our parents.”

KHDA’s take on e-Learning and issues related to fees

Will I be able to get a refund from the school to cover the days my children aren’t at school?

No. Schools will continue to provide distance learning after the spring break.

Can schools charge fees for downloading applications used for distance learning?

The two weeks of distance learning are included in the second semester of the school year and fees have already been paid. Schools are not allowed to charge fees to deliver distance learning.

My child is due to start the new academic year 2020/2021 in April. When do I have to pay?

Schools can only collect annual tuition fees in three instalments, due at the beginning of each term. The first term’s payment should not exceed 40% of the annual tuition fees; the second payment not more than 30 per cent of annual tuition fees; and the third term not more than 30 per cent of annual tuition fees. Please refer to the KHDA Registration and Refund Policy.

My child’s school has asked me to pay for next term’s fees. What options do I have?

Schools are continuing to operate and provide education to students, though we also understand that many families are in a difficult financial situation. In these uncertain times, payment of school fees will need compromise from both schools and parents.

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