To pay or not to pay the monthly fee for kindergarten, daycare and extracurricular activities – this has been the question going through the minds of most parents with young children since the movement control order (MCO) was announced.
Some parents feel they should not have to pay their children’s school transportation or kindergarten fee for the month of April.
The reason commonly cited was that their children did not benefit from the service hence payment should not be expected by the operators.
However, operators are of the opinion that it should not be the case as they still need to cover overhead costs and staff salaries.
The Federal Association of Malaysian School Bus president Amali Munif Rahmat said the
average monthly income of a school van transport provider was about RM2,000, depending on location.
“We can only save about 15% on expenses if we do not transport the children for a month.
“Many bus operators receive credit from government-approved credit companies and these payments must continue.
“Technically, parents pay us for 10-and-a-half months and we stretch that for 12 months, ” he said, adding that some parents were refusing to pay for the month of April and until the MCO was lifted.
“But we hope they understand this situation is no different from when there is a school break in the middle of the year where they pay the full fee.
“However, if the parents have lost their income, they can always negotiate with the operators to delay payment, ” said Amali who has about 10,000 bus operators in his association.
Nicolette Gomes, a co-operator of a kindergarten in Petaling Jaya, said rental still needed to be paid in full regardless of the MCO.
“The rental of premises makes up the bulk of the operational fee besides staff salaries.
“We do not want to lay off employees because once the MCO is lifted, we will need them to operate the kindergarten, ” she said.
Jameyah Sheriff from Registered Childcare Operators Association (PPBM) said parents must understand that if they stopped paying the children’s daycare fees, the operators would have to cease business.
“The government aid will be helpful for those entitled to it but it will only be given out later.
“Hence, many operators may be forced to shut down their business if parents stopped paying the fees.
“Parents must realise that they will still need to send their children to these licensed daycare centres once the MCO is lifted, ” she said.
“I worry that many licensed operators will close down and many unregistered ones will open.”
She added that a number of those operating daycare business were single mothers and that was their only source of income.
Jameyah said the taska should be treated like an educational institution.
“There is a bigger chain reaction if parents do not pay the taska fees.
“Parents who truly cannot pay the fee because they have lost their jobs should speak to the school and come up with some arrangement.
“Children are involved here and once the MCO is lifted, parents will still need a reliable and safe place to send their children to, ” she added.
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations chief executive officer Datuk Dr Paul Selvaraj said parents and operators must put signed agreements aside and come up with a holistic plan that would benefit both parties.
“Parents must appreciate the effort and care that had been given to their children.
“They must understand there is value in the service provided.
“The schools and service providers should also think of creative ways to teach the children through online learning, ” he said.
“However, consumers do have the right to not pay if they do not get the service.
“Nevertheless, in this case, no one is breaching any agreement under the MCO.
“The service providers just cannot operate.
“So it is best to move forward and think of an amicable solution, ” he added.
Parents’ point of view
Mother T. Jane finds it unreasonable that kindergartens and extracurricular activity providers are imposing the full fee.
“Some require us to pay in full but do not provide any lessons or even worksheets, while others give a few worksheets and expect parents to pay the full fee.
“These private institutions are expensive and if they cannot provide the service, they must at least waive the fees.
“Everyone is affected by this MCO and many families are making financial adjustments too, ” she said.
Jessica Teng’s children’s daycare fee was reduced but the tuition fee was maintained.
Her children can access lessons via the Internet but she admits that the children are not fully absorbing what is being taught.
Her daughter’s piano lessons continue as the teacher conducts lessons through recorded videos. As such, full fee payment is required.
“I have to be by my eight-year-old’s side to ensure she stays focused.
“Children have a short attention span. They cannot focus too long facing the laptop and are inexperienced in using the devices for learning purposes.
“My five-year-old has educational worksheets to complete so I just pay what is required.
“I feel the quality of learning is not up to my expectations and online learning may not suit preschool children, ” she said.
Anusha K. said her son’s kindergarten required him to complete worksheets at home and he was learning gymnastics through recorded videos sent by his teacher.
“His gymnastics teacher shares a video through a social media platform and I am required to make him practise the routine demonstrated in the video.
“I am required to pay the full fee and I do not really have a choice.
“As for kindergarten classes, my son was given worksheets to complete before this.
“The school just started online learning for half an hour every alternate day, so I feel it is justifiable to pay the fees for the full month, ” said Anusha.
Another mother, Sageena Satheesan said the children’s e-learning platforms required parents to put in a lot of effort. “Many parents are working from home and without extra mobile devices available, it will be hard for children to join these lessons.
“However, I understand that some tuition teachers and centres are struggling and they really could use the money from the fees even though the parents are juggling quite a bit at home, ” she said.
Suhana K. said one of her sons was participating in digital drawing lessons being taught online.
She has paid the fee in advance and since she is an academician herself, she appreciates the effort made by another teacher.
Meanwhile, T. Shanti said her son was required to submit a video recording to his teacher for his extra acting lessons.
No discounts were given for the fee, she added.
Melissa Lim said her son’s schoolbus fee was RM400 a month for the journey between Damansara Jaya in Petaling Jaya and Subang Bistari, Shah Alam.
The bus fee is paid in advance at the start of the term.
“We pay for 12 months including school holidays all these years. I feel if service is not provided for a month or two, I am not going to pay for the duration.
“I feel the transporter has to consider all the times we have paid for no service during school holidays too, ” she said.
However, Paul K. said his wife decided to just settle the schoolbus fare of RM60 a month.
“The bus driver is elderly and my wife feels it is a small amount, ” said Paul.
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