Latakia: Parents cut food costs to cover children’s private lessons

Second session examinations for the general secondary certificate in its branches in Latakia - August 10, 2023 (Latakia governorate)

Second session examinations for the general secondary certificate in its branches in Latakia - August 10, 2023 (Latakia governorate)

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Latakia – Linda Ali

The psychological and financial pressures on parents and their children, students of secondary and preparatory certificates, are increasing due to the rising costs of private lessons. The fee for a single session reaches about one-third of an employee’s salary or slightly less.

Majdoline (42 years old), a public sector employee and mother of a student preparing for the scientific branch of the secondary school exams in about a month, said she paid about 2.5 million Syrian pounds since the start of the school year until now, expecting the amount to exceed three million pounds by the end of the school year.

Majdoline, who lives in the Bisnada suburb of Latakia, added that the cost of the private institute where her son takes lessons in mathematics and Arabic is 175,000 pounds a month, while she pays 40,000 pounds for a physics session twice a week, the same applies to chemistry and science lessons, while the fee for private lessons in Russian and English reaches 25,000 pounds.

Majdoline secured these amounts by imposing significant austerity within the home, including food, and saved the money from her part-time job and from her husband’s work, who she said had to work more than 11 hours a day to save money for their son’s education.

The high school stage is crucial for students in Syria, as the total marks they obtain determine their fate and the university branch they will choose, despite ongoing demands to change this mindset and allow students to freely choose the branch that suits them regardless of the marks obstructing their dreams of studying the desired major.

High fees for lessons

A monitoring conducted by Enab Baladi in some rural and urban areas and popular neighborhoods showed that the fee for a one-and-a-half-hour mathematics session ranges between 20,000 and 75,000 pounds, depending on the area and the teacher’s name, and whether the teacher will come to the student’s home or the student will go to his.

The fees for a science session range between 30,000 and 50,000 pounds, similar for Russian and English languages, and for chemistry and physics from 40,000 to 70,000 pounds, and for Arabic language from 18,000 to 50,000 pounds.

These mentioned fees are high compared to salary levels and securing the family’s basic needs and essentials, as the minimum government salaries in regime-controlled areas are about 279,000 pounds, and the US dollar equals 14,900 Syrian pounds.

The cost of living for a Syrian family of five has risen to about 12.5 million Syrian pounds monthly, while the minimum has reached 7.8 million Syrian pounds.

Schools falling short

Mohammed (49 years old), father of a student preparing for the scientific branch of the secondary school exams, cannot comprehend the amount he has spent so far on private lessons, which according to his estimates exceeded six million pounds, distributed across summer courses before and during the school year.

Mohammed relied on his brother, a doctor residing in Germany, whose financial remittances covered the costs of private lessons, and he hopes his daughter can enter medical school and then travel to work with her uncle in Germany, as he said.

Mohammed sees the decline in education in public schools as the reason for the great demand for private lessons, in addition to the long breaks during a school year, and stated that most teachers were unable to finish the curriculum for students who left school to review as the exam date approached.

He also mentioned that classes are overcrowded, with about 40 students in his daughter’s class within a school in the city of Latakia, making it difficult for teachers to convey information to everyone and ensure all understood it, as each student has a distinct level of comprehension, according to his statement.

Mathematics and Arabic only

In addition to his government job, Iyad (43 years old) works another job in the afternoon, and barely managed to pay for private lessons in mathematics and Arabic for his daughter, relying on her diligence to secure sufficient marks to qualify her for a university specialization that guarantees her travel after graduation.

Iyad said he does not have any expatriate relatives or a job that provides him with enough income to meet the household needs while paying for private lessons, and he told his daughter this at the start of the school year, asking her to rely on herself as this is all he could offer her.

He added that he saved all he could for his daughter’s lessons, eliminating guest beverages like coffee and maté from and even outside the home, as he does not remember the last time he had a cup of coffee, and he also quit smoking not to curb its harm, but to save the money he spends on it. When the washing machine broke down about two months ago, he did not repair it, forcing his wife to wash clothes by hand until the exams are over.

Iyad prepared his daughter with whatever study and focus supplies were possible, like purchasing a small power battery specially for her room, so she could continue her lessons in the evening, as the family’s old battery is dim.

Students live under difficult circumstances, as electricity is barely available four hours a day versus 20 hours of outage, and parents’ complaints about living conditions also create a pressure factor. Not all students can turn these conditions into motivation for success, as some give up and look for other work outside of school, especially since the salaries of university graduates, whether in the public or private sector, are low compared to other professions’ wages.

Virtual (online) private lesson courses are widespread, and the cost of a course for one subject for the entire school year ranges between 400,000 and 600,000 pounds, but internet conditions and not owning modern smartphones pose obstacles to following these courses.

According to some parents, many teachers in schools have turned into mere traders using the school to promote themselves and get clients from students to give them private lessons at home.

 

 

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