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March 13, 2014

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Home » Metro » Education

Troubled school ‘safe until June’

EDUCATION authorities are closely monitoring the situation at the financially troubled Shanghai Rego International School, but said they won’t take any action before the end of the current semester in June.

Yang Weiren, director of the international department at the Shanghai Education Commission, said that while he “understands parents’ concerns,” there are “procedures to follow.”

The commission’s laws and regulations department is working on a plan for the school and will decide at the end of the semester whether or not to close it, he said.

The crisis at Rego escalated two weeks ago when its teachers walked out following months of negotiations to resolve a pay dispute.

On February 25, Cui Xiaojing, chairman of the school’s management company, New Horizon International Education, met with representatives of teachers and parents. During the meeting, teachers delivered an ultimatum that if their wages were not paid that day they would stop teaching.

Cui said the company was unable to meet the demand and the teachers walked out. Classes have been suspended since February 26.

The school owes each of its 16 foreign and Chinese teachers between one and two months’ wages, and has not paid social insurance payments for its local staff for the past eight months.

In a bid to appease angry parents, Tianjin-based New Horizon, whose primary investor is the Holland-based REGO Education Europe Foundation, promised it will return prepaid tuition fees by the end of May.

But not everyone is prepared to take the vow at face value.

“Based on previous experience, I’m almost certain we won’t get a refund by May,” Nicholas Poynder, the father of a fifth-grader said.

“They keep making promises they can’t keep,” he said.

Poynder said he has paid fees of 180,000 yuan (US$29,300), but his concern is for his 11-year-old son, who has special needs and has yet to be found a place at another school.

Education official Yang said parents’ fees would be refunded and students found alternative schools “before any administrative action is taken.”

In the meantime, Rego will be prohibited from recruiting new students, he said.

In the past two weeks, all but five of its students have been found places at other schools.

The crisis at Rego is nothing new. When it experienced financial difficulties in 2012, the education commission refused to renew its license and the problem took six months to resolve.

Wang Yu, an employee of New Horizon appointed to represent the board in Shanghai, said yesterday that the company is working hard to find a solution to its financial problems.

“Great progress” has been made, Wang said.

Despite the optimism, Rego’s operations director who declined to give her name said she too is owed money and for the past two weeks she and her colleagues have been helping parents on a voluntary basis.

A teacher who has worked at Rego for eight years told Shanghai Daily that several of her workmates have begun legal proceedings against REGO foundation, as their contracts are with the Dutch company. They took the action after failing to garner any significant support from their local labor bureaus.

They are also all looking for new jobs, she said.


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