Financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic forced Nazrul Islam, who works for a private company, to send his family to his village home and get his son admitted to a school there. But the Adarsha High School and College, where his son studies, declined to issue a transfer certificate without full payment of tuition fees since March.
"I am a small employee of a private company and it cut off 30% of my salary after the pandemic started. So, now I am unable to pay the tuition fees. I do not know what to do," said Nazrul.
However, Bhuiyan Abdur Rahman, principal of Adarsha High School and College, told the Business Standard that he would look into the matter if the guardian applied to him.
"We are trying to do everything possible from our side," he said.
Abu Jafar, a parent of a Motijheel Ideal School and College student, said he was doing a small business in the capital. But he has not been able to run his business due to the coronavirus crisis for several months.
"I have spent all my savings in paying house rent, daily expenses and children's tuition fees. Now I have no money, and it is impossible to earn money in this situation. But the school teachers are putting pressure on me to pay tuition fees. I am very worried about it," he said.
But Shahan Ara Begum, principal of Motijheel Ideal School and College, claims that they do not put any pressure on guardians to pay tuition fees. She also said that the educational institution was paying teachers their salaries regularly.
"Tuition fees are our only source of income. We have to run the institution. How will we do it if the guardians do not pay?" she asked.
However, Ziaul Kabir Dulu, president of Bangladesh Guardians' Forum, said, "Guardians are not allowed to apply to Motijheel Ideal School and College for reduction of tuition fees. Even the class teachers always call the guardians to pay fees."
He also added that many schools in the capital were putting pressure on guardians to pay full tuition fees.
Dulu further said the education ministry had requested educational institutions to be humane in charging tuition fees. But the institutions did not pay any heed to it, he said.
Leaders of different associations of guardians said most middle and lower-middle-income families were struggling to survive. Many people either had seen a pay cut, lost jobs or incurred losses in their businesses due to the coronavirus crisis.
In this situation, parents have fallen into deep trouble as educational institutions are pressuring them to pay full tuition fees. Some schools are not even allowing students, who have not paid tuition fees, to participate in online classes and examinations, according to the leaders.
Schools have to pay teachers' salaries only. The institutions have not been using utility services since March 17. So, charging 100 percent tuition fees is irrational, the guardians argued.
Different platforms of guardians have been demanding decreases in tuition fees for a long time. But neither the government nor educational institutions have taken any initiative in this regard.
Prof Syed Golam Faruk, director general of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education, told The Business Standard that they are yet to take any decision about it.
Mahbub Hossain, secretary (Secondary and Higher Education division) of the education ministry, told reporters recently that the ministry had a plan to issue a circular in this regard. But two guardians of Motijheel Ideal School and College filed a case at the High Court seeking a stay order on charging tuition fees, he said.
Meanwhile, the guardians of English medium school students also demanded a 50% waiver in tuition fees during the time of coronavirus pandemic.
Masud Khan, national coordinator of English Medium School Parents Association, said 20% of the guardians were unable to pay tuition fees as some of them had lost their jobs while some others had been counting losses in their businesses.
"Many guardians have decided to not let their children attend their school activities this year. They will admit their children to school next year," he said.
On the other hand, around two months have passed since the Bangladesh Private Medical and Dental Students' Association and Private University Students' Alliance appealed to the authorities concerned to decrease tuition fees during the coronavirus crisis, but they have still not got a response.
There are five crore students in about 1.5 lakh government monthly payment order (MPO)-listed and private educational institutions in the country.
Plight of kindergarten schools and colleges
About one crore students of kindergartens, schools and colleges, which are solely under private ownership, have been deprived of any kind of academic activities for several months.
These educational institutions are dependent only on tuition fees that they get from their students. But due to the coronavirus crisis, they are not getting the tuition fees.
Many teachers have left the profession as the schools and colleges cannot pay their salaries.
"Our teachers are fighting for survival. Their mental condition is not good at all. So how will they care for the students?" said Iqbal Bahar Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Kindergarten School and College Oikya Parishad.
"About 50 percent of 10 lakh teachers at 65,000 kindergartens across the country will be forced to change their profession if the pandemic lingers in Bangladesh," he added.