Parents accuse HCMC international school of dodging debts

By Le Nguyen   September 25, 2023 | 04:50 pm PT
Parents accuse HCMC international school of dodging debts
Parents protest at the American International School Vietnam (AISVN), September 21, 2023. Photo supplied by a parent
Parents have claimed that the American International School Vietnam (AISVN) in HCMC took out zero-interest loans from them to let their children study for free but had failed to deliver as promised.

Van Phuong, who lives in District 7, said he signed a contract with AISVN's chairwoman Nguyen Thi Ut Em in 2018 to lend the school VND5 billion (US$205,000).

With such loans from their parents, the children would be allowed to study for free at the school in Nha Be District until they graduate from high school or move to another school.

As stated in the contract, the loan is interest-free, and the school will pay it within 90 days after the students move to another school or finish their 12th grade.

"My children moved in 2022 but the school has paid us nothing," Phuong said.

He added that the school had promised to pay the debt twice, in January and May this year, but has defaulted until now.

"When signing the contract, I simply thought that my two children could get access to an international education free of charge if I lent them the money, which is a long-term benefit. I did not expect the school to break its promise like this," he said.

In the same situation, Thanh Phung said she had lent the school more than VND10 billion ($410,000) over four contracts to have her four children study there for free.

Early last year, Phung informed the school that one of her children would move to another school in June that year, and would liquidate the remaining three contracts worth a total $300,000.

However, Phung said the school has so far returned only 10% of the total sum.

"I considered the sum as an educational insurance for my children [when signing the contract to lend the school]. In case my family encountered some unexpected financial hiccups, it would not affect their studies," she said.

Both Phung and Phuong said they had no complaints about the quality of the school but felt disappointed in how it handled these financial situations.

"I learned that around 60 parents are in the same situation and each of them had let the school borrow VND2-10 billion," said Phuong.

On the afternoon of September 21, many parents protested at the school, demanding it pay the debts.

In a press release issued last week, the school said the loans stated by parents were actually investments in the school.

It said parents signed "education investment contracts" with the school and the sum would be returned within 5 to 15 years from the time their children started at the school.

Refusing to reveal how much it had borrowed from parents and how much it has defaulted, AISVN said has been "seriously affected" by the pandemic and admitted shortcomings in financial management.

Speaking to VnExpress on Sunday, a representative from the city's Department of Education and Training said the department has received petitions from several parents who had invested in AISVN.

"The department will send an inspection team to the school on Wednesday to look into its financial situation and work with the parents later," said the representative.

AISVN currently teaches 1,400 students from kindergarten to high school levels with 200 foreign teachers and 300 Vietnamese staff.

Its tuition ranges between VND280-350 million per year for kindergarten students, VND450-500 million for primary students and VND600-725 million for high school.

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