Dubai: Many parents are demanding their schools offer a school-wide discount on Term 3 fees instead of “means-tested” or “needs-based” relief restricted to parents who can prove financial hardship stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
The parents contend they should not be expected to pay full Term 3 fees as schools are closed and learning has moved online, with no access to sports grounds, labs, studios and extracurricular activities. Those with younger children add that they have to become part-time teachers to help out with distance learning at home.
Several schools have offered a blanket discount to all parents while some others said they will be flexible on a case-by-case basis for parents who show evidence they have lost their job, taken a pay cut, or placed on unpaid leave.
Parents have been emailing and calling their schools, besides launching online petitions and taking to social media, to convince them for a flat discount for Term 3 for all.
An Indian parent, who only provided his initials, P.M., said he lost his job recently. He has one child in FS2 at Regent International School and another in Year 9 at Sunmarke School, which are located in Dubai and are part of Fortes Education.
“When I requested them for relief because of my situation, besides asking a list of documents from me, like my termination letter and bank statements, which I have, I was also asked to provide the financial statements of my former company,” P.M. said.
“I don’t think companies normally would entertain such a request from their current staff, much less from a laid-off employee in these times.”
A parents’ petition online is asking Regent for a 30 per cent discount.
Another parent, a European expat who has two children at Regent, said schools across the board should offer a discount on Term 3 fees for all parents.
The parent, who did not wish to be named, said: “Schools have been closed, it’s no one’s fault, and I understand the situation we all are in together. But, as part of schools fees, there are services that have already been paid for, such as sports, extracurricular activities, etc. These services are not being returned in Term 3.”
‘Why pay in full?’
He added: “Whether schools are saving or not saving financially is debatable. My question is, why pay in full when you’re not getting something back in full?
“The reality is nobody planned to be in this situation and there has to be a humane, fair and equitable solution for everyone. As to what would be a reasonable discount? Any value greater than zero and a more cooperative disposition would be good.”
A Western mum with two children at the school cited an emailed letter from the principal as saying: “We have devised a Relief Package that will allow us to financially aid those most in need, while retaining as many of our staff as possible and managing our cost base to ensure our school’s survival and sustainability. Through this needs-based approach, we are committed to offering tuition fee relief to those families that can prove genuine inability to pay fees due to the adverse impact of COVID-19 via measures…”
An email seeking comment has been sent to the school operator, however there was no reply by press time.
Similar petitions have also been launched for other education providers, including schools of GEMS Education, the UAE’s biggest school group, as well as Nord Anglia International School Dubai (NAS Dubai).
‘Ready to modify’
NAS Dubai Principal Matthew Farthing said: “We are listening closely to our parents’ concerns and, as always at NAS Dubai, we are ready to modify according to need and will adapt as we learn more. We remain dedicated to maintaining our strong sense of community and the highest quality of learning in our virtual school experience.”
A GEMS Education spokesperson said: “We are committed to offering tuition fee relief to those families that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. We have announced a deferment of fees, payment plans or discounts for families who have lost their jobs, had salary cuts or been placed on unpaid leave as a direct result of the COVID-19 Virus.
“We are also waiving all registration fees, assessments and administration fees until further notice. This means-tested approach will allow us to allocate our relief efforts to those most in need during these unprecedented times, while retaining all of our teachers and managing our cost base.”
On Monday, UAE’s second largest school group Taaleem joined a growing list of schools offering discounts. Taaleem announced a ‘Support Package’ for parents, including Term 3 discounts of up to 25 per cent at all its schools “in response to the urgent needs of parents suffering severe hardships and to provide immediate relief”.
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