The management of Alpha Beta Education Centre has said the school cannot afford to give parents a 50 to 80 per cent discount as they (parents) proposed for the third term.
The school said it can offer between 10 and 25% discount.
A video of angry parents at the school’s premises protesting what appeared to be a call on them to pay the fees of their wards despite the children being home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, went viral on social media on Wednesday, 6 May 2020.
But Alpha Beta, in a statement signed by Dr Naomi Adjepong, Director of Operations for and on behalf of the Board, said: “With regard to the fees for the third term, in particular, we were guided by two main values in our decision-making. The first was empathy for both parents and staff who stand to be affected by this pandemic; and the second was the long-term sustainability of the service we seek to provide even after this pandemic is over.
“This would require us to use tuition fees, currently our sole source of revenue, to safeguard our staff who are our most valuable resource, acquire necessary teaching and learning resources for the start of next term, and to maintain the facilities.
“This revenue would also have to offset other fixed costs such as our financial obligations both statutory and non-statutory such as bank loans and debt payments. We also had financial limitations to consider in our decision-making, being that 25% of last term’s fees are still outstanding. We have always tried to accommodate parents who genuinely need help in paying school fees. Unfortunately, in spite of our good intentions, this has led to a serious backlog of unpaid fees which has limited our flexibility during this period.”
The school noted that although it cannot afford to offer any higher discounts, “we have, however, given consideration to other ways we can help to alleviate the challenges some parents may be facing at this time.”
To this end, the school said it has communicated some of these considerations to the parent body as a whole and is in conversation with the group of parents who have engaged them, to gain more insights that can allow the school to consider various teaching/learning scenarios, and further support parents who have challenges facilitating virtual learning from home.
Below is the full statement:
ALPHA BETA EDUCATION CENTRES COVID-19 PRESS STATEMENT
The drama started after a letter was sent out on Friday 24/04/2020 to provide updates on our third term virtual learning arrangements and fee payments. On the morning of Monday 27th April, a group of 6 parents claiming to represent some of our parents came to register their concerns about the online learning programme as well as the expected fees. These well received concerns were submitted in writing later that evening, as requested, and verbally acknowledged by management. Their letter proposed a 50-80% discount on fees, clarification on the operational side of our online learning programme, and the support for specific groups of parents, especially those with difficult work schedules; and the logistics required by parents amongst others.
Their letter did not acknowledge the 10-25% discounts that had already been offered by Alpha Beta in previous correspondence. The requests made in their letter required very deep considerations by management to be able to come to any decisions. It was impossible to make any decisions overnight, and this was made clear to the representative parent group in person.
It was with great disappointment to see however, that by Thursday morning, what began as a civil conversation on Monday had seemingly given birth to a protest meeting on the school compound in spite of the national ban on arranged gatherings of more than 25 people. The skeletal staff on duty at the time were understandably quite distressed after the ordeal. Some of the parents who assembled went further to post videos of the protest on social media and called some media houses to draw attention to their protest. These videos which have gone viral have caused great distress to many members of the Alpha Beta community and have drawn a lot of negative comments on social media.
It is important to note the false claims made about the situation. In one video, a parent claimed that Alpha Beta “had not been in contact with parents throughout the shutdown period and was not interested in the wellbeing of the parents”, when in fact, management, staff and teachers had been in constant communication throughout the period. We actually ran the end of the 2nd term online by uploading lessons and worksheets in all the subjects, for parents to download. We had to be in constant contact with parents for this to work. Additionally, in our previous correspondence with parents, we made it very clear that we had dedicated helplines available for emotional support (for both parents and children) to help them cope during this time. We provided academic and IT support. We even entreated parents with genuine difficulties with paying fees to approach the school and we would see how best to support them. We worked tirelessly to react quickly to the COVID-19 situation so that children could remain occupied at home. It is still unclear to us why this parent set out to purposefully defame his child’s school with such false claims, and by so doing, implicate all those associated with the school.
In another protest video, there was a parent who claimed that they had been told by management that it was illegal to be on the school compound, even though correspondence sent out by the school said that parents could come for assistance if they had any challenges with the virtual learning programme or fee payment. Indeed, following the national ban on arranged gatherings of more than 25 people, it was illegal to arrange a demonstration on the school premises with no prior notice/authorization, compromise the health & safety of staff who were on site at the time, and go further to be verbally abusive towards some of the managers and teachers who were present. Regardless of the situation and the sentiments that any group of parents share, under no circumstances will Alpha Beta ever condone, encourage nor tolerate any such behaviour by parents.
With regard to the fees for the third term in particular, we were guided by two main values in our decision-making. The first was empathy for both parents and staff who stand to be affected by this pandemic; and the second was the long-term sustainability of the service we seek to provide even after this pandemic is over. This would require us to use tuition fees, currently our sole source of revenue, to safeguard our staff who are our most valuable resource, acquire necessary teaching and learning resources for the start of next term, and to maintain the facilities.
This revenue would also have to offset other fixed costs such as our financial obligations both statutory and non-statutory such as bank loans and debt payments. We also had financial limitations to consider in our decision-making, being that 25% of last term’s fees are still outstanding. We have always tried to accommodate parents who genuinely need help in paying school fees. Unfortunately, in spite of our good intentions, this has led to a serious backlog of unpaid fees which has limited our flexibility during this period.
Trying to meet the needs of all stakeholders and minimising the risks and hardships while still ensuring the stability of Alpha Beta is no easy feat and is extremely stressful, as you can imagine. However, we are determined to diligently employ the limited resources we have at present to prepare students for promotion to the next class during this virtual term, and to seamlessly continue to provide excellent quality education thereafter.
Under no circumstances is Alpha Beta as an organisation trying to take advantage of parents for profit at this time. The school will run at a big loss during this period and beyond, like many other private businesses nationwide. Our priority here is to ensure that Alpha Beta stays alive during this down time so that our children have an Alpha Beta as they know it, to go back to, when this is all over.
VIRTUAL VS PHYSICAL CLASSROOM
Whilst we aim to still maintain high standards in the provision of education via the internet during this time, we also understand that the system is not perfect and not necessarily ideal for everyone. Now more than ever, we need our parents to be supportive and provide constructive feedback as we go along, for us to be able to improve the system and make it more valuable.
Given the circumstances and the time constraints, the planning and execution of virtual learning has been extremely challenging. The model is very different from teaching in the classroom, and teachers have to work twice as hard in this time to create material for teaching and learning. Many parents may be tempted to directly equate the fees they are required to pay to the fact that virtual learning doesn't offer the same holistic experience as a physical classroom.
However, this calculation is shortsighted. Whilst the delivery of the virtual learning experience in itself is more work than many parents would anticipate, we do not expect them to directly equate it to the fees they expect to pay. The fixed and upfront costs of running a physical school do not change or get reimbursed even if learning has unexpectedly had to move online. The priority of the school is to stay afloat in this difficult period, so that we can go back to normal schedule as soon as it is safe to do so, without compromising on the quality that is expected from Alpha Beta. It should rather be considered as an investment in the future and a means by which we can resume normality as soon as the Covid19 situation is over.
For the reasons stated above, we cannot afford to increase our 10-25% discount at this time.
Though we cannot afford to offer any higher discounts, we have, however, given consideration to other ways we can help to alleviate the challenges some parents may be facing at this time. Management has communicated some of these considerations to the parent body as a whole. We are in conversation with the group of parents who have engaged us, to gain more insights that can allow us to consider various teaching/learning scenarios, and further support parents who have challenges facilitating virtual learning from home.
Creating media attention at a sensitive time like this is unnecessary given that there is an ongoing conversation with parents, and unhealthy for the mental-wellbeing of the staff of Alpha Beta, who have worked relentlessly to prepare and deliver the virtual learning programme, and who continue to seek ways to improve this service.
These are not ideal times, and we understand that we may not be able to please every single parent at this time, but we vow to do the best we can. If we stick together, focus on the children‘s needs, and have a wider perspective, we shall get through to the other side stronger and much better positioned to deliver excellent quality education for generations to come.
Together, we shall persevere to excellence!
Dr. Naomi Adjepong
Director of Operations
For and on behalf of Alpha Beta Management Board