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School owners torn between parents’ demands, financial losses

By Maram Kayed - Oct 14,2020 - Last updated at Oct 14,2020

AMMAN — Owners of private schools are at a loss as distance learning places them in a difficult situation by obliging them to pay teachers’ salaries while parents demand tuition fee refunds.

“I will hand over my school's keys right this second to the Ministry of Education and leave it to handle the mess it has left me in after it suspended direct education even though it assured us at the beginning of the year that it would not. Now I am obliged to pay my teachers’ salaries while parents refuse to pay fees as they claim that their children are not benefitting from online education,” said Rami Quteishat, a vice president of a small private school in Amman.

“We were asked to renew our licences for the year 2021 based on a clear statement from the former minister of education that learning will be direct. Based on that, we gave our word to parents in exchange for the full payment of their fees. They are now asking for their money back, and no one can blame them,” added Quteishat.

He noted that the decision to go back online was “unfair”, as “most private schools followed the health protocol issued by the ministry in their classrooms and buses, and were given the green light from the ministry itself”.

In a protest held in Irbid by private school owners, they demanded that the defence orders regarding salaries under distance learning should be reviewed and the licence fees for schools and kindergartens be refunded by the government.

Among the demands were also the abolition of the tax on schools this year as well as exemption from municipal fees, waste and parking fees, the reduction of the monthly rent for the leased property, the exemption of buses from licensing fees, and the consideration of schools as being among the most affected sectors by the Central Bank for the purpose of postponing loans without interest.

“Parents of students are either requesting refunds or refusing to pay this year’s tuition by arguing that they should not pay for a bus or classroom that their child would not use. Likewise, we ask the government to exempt us from the fees they made us pay based on their assurances that teaching will be direct,” said Yazan Sari, a board member of a private school in Amman.

Sari noted that his school had promised parents that if teaching would be back online, they would receive half the fee, a promise that he said “had to be made to reassure parents that they should pay the fee as many of them were reluctant at the beginning of the school year.”

“Now, the school might actually have to return the money, which means that it might endure serious financial losses as it will be getting half the fees while paying its employees’ salaries in full,” he added.

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