Daraa: Students leave private schools due to skyrocketing tuition fees
Daraa – Sarah al-Ahmad
Although she is from the upper middle class, Iman complains that student tuition fees in private schools have risen significantly in the southern Daraa governorate.
“The security conditions over the past ten years have forced me to enroll my children in a private school near my home, but this year, I need about 12 million Syrian pounds in tuition fees only.”
The majority of the families of private school students in Daraa are high-income people like Iman, but due to the deteriorating economic situation in Syria, this class began to express their dissatisfaction with the “exaggerated” rise in private school fees, while some parents decided to send their children back to public schools, ignoring its poor educational situation.
The first private school was established in Daraa governorate in 1975, according to what the people of the governorate say, while currently, the number of private schools has reached seven in the city of Daraa alone, in addition to the presence of a number of other private schools in the rest of the cities and countryside of the governorate.
Private school fees amounted to about 40,000 pounds in 2011 and increased year after year to reach 500,000 pounds in 2021, and in 2022 they doubled to one million pounds. This year, however, they exceeded expectations, with most schools requesting fees of up to 4.5 million Syrian pounds.
($1=13,900 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.
The fees do not differ according to the student registration category, but rather, the same tuition covers the entire educational levels from the first grade of primary school to the third grade of secondary school.
These fees are separate from school transportation fees for those who wish to enroll their children there, as their separate costs amount to between 600,000 and 700,000 pounds for the academic year.
40% decline in enrollment in private schools
A government official told Enab Baladi that statistics in the Daraa Education Directorate showed a significant decline in the number of students enrolled in private schools who headed to government schools instead.
The Daraa Education Directorate does not usually announce its statistics, but an employee in the directorate revealed to Enab Baladi the statistics of the number of students enrolled in private schools and the difference between last year and the current year.
In 2022, the number of students enrolled in private schools reached about 2,240 male and female students, while this year, the number of private school students reached about 1,700 male and female students.
According to the employee (who refused to mention his name for security reasons), the number of students in the private school must not be less than 90 students so that it is not forced to close.
Regarding the mechanism for determining tuition fees, the employee explained that last July, fees were determined through several meetings between Daraa Education Directorate officials, led by the Director of Education, Manhal al-Ammarin, and private school principals.
School principals’ justifications for raising fees during the meetings were the expensive educational facilities and trips they provided, in addition to the high prices of fuel, paper, and printing ink and the high wages of teachers.
This year, as in previous years, the Education Directorate adopted the “points liberalization” policy, according to which it determined the maximum and minimum fees.
Tuition fees for this academic year were set at a minimum of 4 million Syrian pounds to a maximum of 5 million pounds, without school transportation fees exceeding 600,000 pounds.
Parents are upset
The significant increase in tuition this year prompted many residents of Daraa governorate to withdraw their children’s files from private schools and enroll them in government schools despite the latter’s deteriorating educational conditions.
Iman al-Mahamid is a resident of the city of Daraa. Her husband works in the women’s clothing trade, and she has three children who study in a private school, but this year, she decided to transfer them to a government school.
Regarding the reason for their transfer to the government school, Iman told Enab Baladi, “Since they started school, I did not want to enroll them in government schools due to the security conditions during the past ten years, especially since the private school is closer to my home than the government school.”
Al-Mahamid added, “This year, prices have risen significantly to about 4 million pounds, excluding delivery fees, meaning I need about 12 million pounds in installments only, while the cost of their installments last year did not exceed three million pounds.”
“Private schools have begun to see our children as bags of money walking on the ground,” according to Iman’s words, explaining that she transferred them to a government school despite the lack of staff while compensating them with a private language teacher.
Jihad, of Nasib village in the eastern countryside of Daraa, an expatriate working in the UAE away from his family, suspended the studies of two of his children in primary and middle school, in addition to his four nephews from their private school in Daraa.
Jihad was surprised by the cost of private school this year, saying, “Four million for each child, which means that my brother and I need 25 million pounds, as if I were enrolling them in a private university and not a school,” he told Enab Baladi.
The principal of Jihad’s children’s private school justified the increase in tuition by saying that the school follows an additional linguistic educational system this year, but he was not convinced by what he said and transferred his children and nephews to a government school in the city of Daraa while providing transportation for them from the village of Nasib.
He indicated that he did not want to transfer them to a government school in the village due to the shortage of educational personnel.
The principal and owner of a private school in the city of Daraa told Enab Baladi that the increase in tuition fees is due to the increase in the prices of paper, printing ink, school taxes, and modern educational means such as projection screens, and electricity, in addition to the increase in teachers’ wages, ranging from 30,000 to 40,000 pounds per hour.
Among the reasons he also mentioned were high fuel prices and educational trips, according to the principal (who refused to mention his name for security reasons), who confirmed the withdrawal of many students this year from his school, and the closure of classes from some educational levels, especially from the preparatory, tenth, and eleventh levels due to inability of families to pay the installments.
Of the students remaining two months after the start of the academic year, there are still 30% of students who have not completed the full installment payment, according to the principal.
Public schools suffer from a shortage of educational personnel, and circulars from the Minister of Education in the Syrian regime’s government, Muhammad Amer Mardini, indicate that administrators will return to classrooms as teachers, with the exception of those over the age of 55 or those referred by health care.
Wahid Zaal, head of the Teachers Syndicate, stressed in statements reported by the government Al-Baath newspaper a few days ago the necessity of holding a quick recruitment competition to fill the shortage in schools, noting that there are many teachers teaching through agencies to cover the shortage in some curricula.
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