Wednesday, November 25, 2020

More tuition centres on the brink as strapped parents pull their kids out

'But now that everyone is in financial difficulties, who will want to buy my business?' say owners.

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The recently imposed conditional movement control order (CMCO) in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor is taking many tuition centres to the very brink of collapse as they can no longer operate without income.

These centres, which teach extra classes for primary and secondary school students, have been badly hit since the CMCO was imposed throughout Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. Their situation is exacerbated by still being in the dark regarding new SOPs the education ministry promised them back in June.

Despite introducing innovations such as bringing in online classrooms, splitting classes to reduce numbers, and offering greater flexibility in class times, many centres still cannot generate enough income to keep going and the future looks just as bleak.

A Danau Kota tuition centre owner who only wanted to be known as Kana, told MalaysiaNow he has decided to bring the curtain down on the centre he has been running since 2012 because he can no longer pay his teachers or his utility bills.

Kana, a former teacher himself, said that since March he has had extensive discussions with his teachers, trying to come up with innovative back-up plans such as offering online learning sessions to students.

“Before the MCO, parents who had not recovered financially were already agonising over whether they could still afford to send their children to tuition classes,” he said.

“Now so many of them are calling me, wanting to withdraw their children from my centre. We are losing more and more students all the time and now we can’t pay our teachers because we have no income.”

He said that although he has had countless discussions with parents, trying to find ways to help them enrol their children in his classes, the financial difficulties plaguing so many families means little can really be done.

“These parents told me frankly that they are still having big money problems and they just can’t afford to continue with their kids attending my school. That actually reassured me a little because it showed they like our classes but they just don’t have the money for fees.”

A MalaysiaNow survey of online marketplaces found more than 10 tuition centres in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor for sale. Average prices start as low as RM7,000, rising to RM65,000 depending on classroom sizes and other facilities. Most centres listed are in the Cheras, Pudu, Damansara, Bandar Tun Razak, Subang Jaya and Shah Alam areas.

“We are losing more and more students all the time and now we can’t pay our teachers because we have no income.”

A centre owner in Subang Jaya, who wanted to be known only as Kenny, said he has decided to sell his 13-year-old business due to unreliable cash flows since the MCO was imposed in March.

He told MalaysiaNow his tuition centre had 13 teachers and more than 200 enrolled students, and before Covid-19 struck, he was able to earn an income of RM60,000 to RM70,000 after paying staff salaries and utility bills. Now he makes less than RM10,000.

“Since the MCO was imposed, we haven’t collected any tuition fees,” he said. He has offered to hold tuition classes online, but this was not welcomed by parents. He said he empathises with the parents’ dilemma.

In Bandar Tun Razak, Sinar Tuition manager Kasthuri Tennarasan told MalaysiaNow that the centre he began nine years ago is now facing insurmountable difficulties, as in the MCO period between March and August he had no income at all from tuition fees.

“We couldn’t charge anything because there were no classes during that period,” he said. “And we couldn’t conduct many online classes because a lot of students don’t have adequate internet access or equipment at home.”

Classes that restarted in early September have now had to be suspended after the CMCO was reimposed. That looks to be the final straw for Kasthuri’s dream.

He is selling his centre as a complete package, including all classroom facilities, furniture, teaching staff and 119 students.

But as Kenny and so many other owners of doomed tuition centre are asking: “Now that everyone is in financial difficulties, who will want to buy my business?”

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