Mae’s 42% fee hike…call for Govt’s interventionAs the lunch break saw children playing in the nearby playground, about 20 parents with children attending the institution staged a peaceful picketing exercise in front of the Mae’s Schools at Third Avenue, Subryanville, Georgetown, calling for the administration to meet with them to discuss the hike in fees.Some of the outraged parents outside the Mae’s Schools on MondayThe parents claim that just before school closed for Easter, they received notice indicating school fees for the Christmas term will be increased by up to 42 per cent, depending on the Grade.Spokesperson for the parents, Shenera Sam, said parents are not against a reasonable increase, but the current figures are almost exploitative. She said she has two children attending the institution, and she cannot afford an extra $25,000 in fees when she has to pay as much as $50,000 for textbooks.“At this point in time my standard of living has not increased; therefore, I cannot go to my (bosses) and tell them that I now have $25,000 more in expense, that they should increase my salary. So I am here, and I will stand here for as long as I can, until the administrators decide to speak with us, come up with a reasonable increase,” she said.She opined that the move to increase the fees was a calculated one, since registration at other private schools has already closed.“What I found is that it was strategically done, so there is no way we can get these children in private schools, because all the private schools have had registration…I am very optimistic that some compassion would come up somewhere along the line in terms of the administrators, and they will find a way to help us, or for us to work it out. But what is ironic is that this same administration stood with us when we were opposing the 14 per cent VAT,” Sam noted.Additionally, Sam said the more than 170 parents are hopeful that the Government would see it fit to intervene and provide them with some satisfaction.“There are no laws or institutions governing private schools. I called the Competition and Consumer Affairs and they said because we don’t have a written contract with the school, there is nothing they can really do for us. So, we are hoping (that) with us coming out and protest, that somehow the Government would find it in their heart to intervene and help us,” Sam related.Meanwhile, at last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing, State Minister Joseph Harmon said the matter has not engaged the attention of Cabinet, but he did note that the arrangement between the private institutions and the parents is private. However, he said the Education Ministry would have to look at the increase to determine whether it was an unreasonable imposition.Mae’s Administrator, Stacey French, has said the increase is due to the school’s increased costs to do business, as well as the challenge of hiring teachers who are both motivated and experienced, in addition to overall operational costs.Another parent, Mark Singh, told the Guyana Times that the parents are out to protest since the school’s administration has been ignoring their request to meet. He said his two children are in Upper Playgroup and Upper Nursery, and he would have to find an additional $30,000 to pay when the new term comes.He explained that it is his preference to send his children to a private school, but he would not allow himself to be exploited.Meanwhile, a grandmother, Mrs Reid, (only name given) said she has four grandchildren attending the institution and that their mother is already contemplating enrolling them in the public school system.“If they raise their fees they put on a $5,000, but $15,000 is too much! The facilities (are not good), the toilet is dripping water and the ceiling leaking…$1 million a year is too much; people isn’t working for that,” she said.The parents have also called for an interim body to manage the affairs of private schools.Then Education Minister, Priya Manickchand, had tabled the Education Bill of 2014, which was read in Parliament in 2014. Then in 2017, the MoE had said the regularisation of all private education institutions will be provided for under the new Education Act.When contacted concerning the status of the new Education Act, the Education Ministry (MoE) said, “The matter has to engage Cabinet, Opposition and all other stakeholders on the matter reference to the Bill.”Additionally, the MoE was unable to confirm or deny whether the situation at the school in regard to fees was being liked into.This is not the first time that parents of children attending the Mae’s Schools are protesting a decision by the school’s administration. In May of 2016, several parents of students in Grade 5 staged a protest, claiming that they had paid $20,000 for extra lessons that were not being delivered.