A teacher takes class at church-run St. Gregory’s High School in Dhaka in this 2012 file photo. Church officials have cautiously welcomed a government order on Jan. 17 barring private schools from increasing tuition fees. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)
Bangladesh’s Education Ministry has banned private schools from hiking tuition fees, in some cases by almost double, following an outcry from parent, students and the church.
The Jan. 17 directive said if any school defies the order it would face strict punitive measures.
The order came after several private schools in Dhaka and the country’s second city Chittagong suddenly raised monthly tuition fees by 50 to 100 percent.
They justified the move by citing a recent increase in government employees’ salaries.
The tuition increases triggered a series of street and other protests by hundreds of students and their parents since early January.
Every year many private schools raise tuition fees due to increases in various costs but this year crossed all the limits, parents and students said.
“Schools are using the [government] pay scale as an excuse to resort to looting,” Ziaul Kabir Dulu, president of the Dhaka-based Guardians’ Unity Forum — a parents association — was quoted as saying by online newsportal bdnews24.com on Jan. 16.
Despite being a tiny minority, Christians especially the Catholic Church play a vital role in the country’s education sector. The Catholic Church runs a university, eight colleges and 580 primary or high schools, helping to educate an estimated 100,000 students each year — most of them non-Christians.
In Dhaka and Chittagong, the church runs 27 high schools which are among the top ranked there.
Church officials and school heads say they have not hiked tuition fees and cautiously welcomed the government directive to stop private schools charging too much.
Although not opposed to minor increases in tuition fees they say some private schools have gone too far.
“To ensure quality education, quality teachers are essential and they need good pay. However, it should not be an excuse to charge extremely high fees from students,” said Holy Cross Brother Robi T. Purification, principal of St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School in Dhaka.
“We want the government to allow increases in tuition fees at an acceptable level, so that teachers are not deprived and students are not burdened,” he said.