November 01, 2016
The rising cost of school tuition in Iran has been a major source of concern for many parents who worry about their children’s future.
In recent years, a large number of students have been forced to drop out of school because their families have not been able to shoulder the steep cost of tuition.
There is no apparent justification for exorbitant fees charged by private schools. The Ministry of Education has made a few half-hearted attempts to impose a cap on tuition fees, but it has failed miserably.
Although the Islamic republic’s constitution guarantees free education for everyone at all levels with the exception of university studies, all public schools charge students some sort of fee.
A number of students from Shahid Chamran School in Kerman province, were recently flogged by the school principal for failing to pay their 30,000 tomans ($10) school tuition. The provincial school district has tried to discredit the report, describing it as “biased and fabricated”. However, a video clip has surfaced that shows students identifying the school principal by name reiterating they had been expelled from Chamran school.
In another case, newspapers reported that over 4,000 students in Roudbar township in Kerman Province had not paid for their textbooks. It has also emerged that Kerman school district currently owes 100 million tomans ( $31,000) to publishers of school textbooks.
School Tuition: A Nightmare
The decision by public schools to charge students’ tuition fees has put undue pressure on many families who are already experiencing financial hardship. They fear that their children may not be able to continue with their education.
Kayhan-London has spoken to the father of a high school student who has fallen behind on tuition payments for the current calendar year. He said: “The vice-principal asks my son, every day, when they could expect a payment. My son can not concentrate in the classroom. This is between us and the school officials; my son should not be subjected to that sort of pressure. We are stressed out. This has turned into a nightmare.”
The father, who works for a subsidiary of the National Iranian Gas Company in Qazvin (93 miles northwest of Tehran), told Kayhan that he had not been paid his salary for the past six months. He has been struggling to make ends meet. Meanwhile, his older son must pay his university tuition for the current term in advance, or he will not be able to take any more course credits. So, the family has decided to pay his tuition at the exclusion of all other urgent expenses. As a consequence, the man’s younger son will not be able to attend math and physics classes at his high school as he had hoped for, and instead, will have to settle for courses in empirical sciences.
School officials refused to speak to Kayhan about these issues when contacted.
Constitution: Just a Piece of Paper
The Article 30 of the Islamic republic’s constitution clearly states “The government is responsible for providing the means for public education for everyone up to the end of high school. It must expand free higher education until the point when the nation reaches self-sufficiency.”
Education officials in Iran have conveniently circumvented the law by allowing public schools to ask parents to pay a so-called “voluntary” annual fee which, in practice, translates into mandatory tuition. And despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the officials continue to insist that all cash contributions to school officials are made purely on a voluntary basis. And yet, most public schools demand that parents pay an annual fee.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has made no effort to address this issue.
Kayhan recently spoke to a retired educator about the public school system and the fee structure. He said: “The Ministry of Education allocates a specific budget to each public school based on the number of students enrolled. The funds should cover salaries and operational expenses. Frequently, however, the ministry short-changes the schools because it simply runs out of funds. So, to compensate for their budgetary deficits, schools are forced to ask parents for cash contributions in order to meet their daily operational expenses such as paying utility bills, repairs and general maintenance.”
The Ministry of Education’s failure to meet its budgetary obligations has created a nationwide crisis within the public school system. The ministry, in turn, blames the government for not allocating a larger budget for its operation. The former minister of education, Ali Asghar Fani, has come under fire from a number of Majlis deputies who hold him responsible for the current problem.
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