Parents with children in private schools are increasingly concerned about school fees that they continue to pay as schools remain closed in response to the global pandemic, Covid-19.
On March 23 2020, President Mutharika’s directive to close both public and private primary, secondary and universities as a response to Covid-19 took effect.
This was later followed by a declaration of the State of the Disaster, which meant the continuation of closure of the schools. Government is currently in talks with different stakeholders to try and find measures to be taken if schools have to re-open.
The first step is the creation of a multi-sectoral task force mandated to look into the possibility of re-opening schools. Again, government has been quite clear, from the day the school closure was announced, that when it is safe to re-open schools, all schools, including private ones, will start from where they had stopped. In other words, no school is expected to proceed to start a new term until when the government will announce the re-opening of schools.
As Malawi is in a State of Disaster. The expectation is that public and private schools will adhere to the rules set by government, but it seems some private schools have a mind of their own. Independent schools are governed by the same State of Disaster rules as public schools.
It is, therefore, shocking to note that some private schools are bullying parents to pay full school fees, and even threatening parents and learners that they will not be allowed back in school if they fail to pay the fees.
Some private schools have even gone as far as declaring that they have re-opened school through online learning and that as far as they are concerned, a new term has begun.
This is not right and government, Independent Schools Association of Malawi (Isama) and respective civil society organisations must come in and condemn the practice, and also discipline schools that are ripping off parents.
It is understandable that some private schools are offering online lessons, but one thing everyone needs to get right is that such lessons should not be considered as opening a new term.
The government will announce the the re-opening of schools and until such a time, all the lessons being offered should not be considered as a new school term, this is my thought.
While parents understand that there is money spent in managing online lessons, compiling lessons, it should also be known that parents are also taking a bigger role of delivering these lessons which would otherwise have been delivered by the schools.
It is, therefore, immoral to demand full school fees from parents when the parents are doing much of the homeschooling and they, too, are spending a lot to make the lessons possible.
As parents, let us not give in easily to bullying from some schools. Let us question the reasoning behind their decisions to demand full tuition when learners are at home. In fact, they are certain private schools that are not offering new lessons, but revisions.
I know there are some private schools which are justifying that they follow the international syllabus. As far as I remember, even in the UK schools have not re-opened yet.
The government should punish anyone or any institution that is profiteering from the Covid-19 pandemic.