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School ordered to return parents' 'donations' for weekend classes

By Jiang Chenglong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-23 07:42

A middle school in Sichuan province has been ordered to return money that it had asked parents to donate for after-class services.

The government of Tianquan county said in a news release on Tuesday that the parents' committee of Tianquan No 2 Junior High School had asked students' families to donate at the behest of the school.

According to the release, the parents' committee collected nearly 1.46 million yuan ($220,000), of which, 1.2 million yuan was sent to Ya'an City Education Foundation by members of the committee. The rest hasn't been used so far.

The county government said the school's attempt to collect money from parents violated the Ministry of Education's prohibition on collecting fees in the name of after-class services. The deputy director of the Tianquan education bureau was warned, and the school's principal, Zhang Shuaidong, was fired.

"It's illegal for the parents' committee to collect money, because only qualified agencies recognized by governments - such as the Red Cross Society - can collect donations," said Zhao Li, a lawyer at Jingsh Law Firm in Beijing.

"If public schools like this middle school lack funding, they should apply to the government," he added.

According to thepaper.cn, the school surveyed parents in September and found the majority wanted their children to attend the extra classes during weekends that the school opened on Oct 9.

A month later, the school told the parents' committee that it had encountered financial difficulties in being open on weekends, and it subsequently called on every parent to voluntarily donate money, which would be sent to the Ya'an City Education Foundation.

Du Deyan, a representative of the parents' committee, said the donation would be used to support the school and teachers. Du came up with the idea, which was agreed to by the committee members.

However, several parents felt the donation was not truly voluntary. "If it is entirely voluntary, why is there a minimum donation of 1,200 yuan?" one reportedly asked.

The foundation said on Nov 16 that it was unaware of the donation activity and had never authorized any organizations or individuals to acquire donations.

The foundation told China Daily it has already started returning the money.

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