Parents of pupils in multiple international schools operating in Ethiopia are unsure with their mode of payment system and operation, creating confusion.
Parents who approached The Reporter have filed a complaint concerning German schools payment system that is under the German Embassy. They claim that the school forces them to pay school fees in foreign currency.
However, German Embassy officials who oversee the school told The Reporter that the School has an independent right to decide on the payment system for foreign passport holders, based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed back in 2004 by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and the German Embassy.
Head of the Cultural section at the German Embassy Kalle Holzfuss (PhD) speaking to The Reporter said, of the 327 students, 96 Ethiopian nationals pay in Birr and are not requested to pay in foreign currency.
A parent who enrolled her kid at the school, speaking anonymously said that while her kid is of Ethiopian origin, she is obliged to pay in Euros.
In the MOU signed in 2004, the two sides agreed that three types of students have the opportunity to apply and join the school. Pupils previously enrolled in German language schools who have returned from abroad, first-grade descendants of alumni who are considered bridge-builders between the two countries, and pupils from families who were, are or might be posted to Germany on business or diplomatic staff are the three types of students that can be enrolled in the school.
The MOU does not apply only to Ethiopian nationals and does not cover a third country’s nationals, according to Holzfuss. The agreement states that the level of school fees are to be exclusively determined by a school board, comprising the German Ambassador in Ethiopia, the headmaster, parents, teachers representatives and six selected members of the German School association in Ethiopia. But it lacks to specifically stipulate about the modes of payment.
A letter issued by the school board on June 29, 2022, which The Reporter obtained revealed a new measure to be applied during the upcoming 2022/2023 academic year. The letter outlined a 10 percent increase, and the payments made by international students and the total paying students to pay exclusively in Euros.
The Reporter also obtained another letter from the Ministry of education issued in June 2022 by general education inspection director, Asfaw Mekonen. The letter urged all 27 international and community schools operating in Ethiopia to abide by Ethiopian laws and implement a birr payment system avoiding dollarization.
However, the German Embassy School said they did not receive any letter cautioning about the modalities of payment.
The Reporter’s efforts to get comments on the payment system from Asfaw were not successful after he declined several phone calls and text messages.
Education programs Quality Director at the Ministry, Yohanes Wogasso said based on the law of the country; it is prohibited to make any form transactions using foreign currency in Ethiopia. Since Ethiopia is a sovereign country, it is not allowed to make payments other than in Ethiopian Birr, according to Yohanes.
“Recently, the Ministry has established a committee and enquired into dozens of complaints from parents who have enrolled their kids in multiple international and community schools operating in Ethiopia,” said Yohanes.
Based on the committees finding, the Ministry is taking measures to solve the problem through various mechanisms, including using directives and other institutional solutions, he added.
The Greek Community School is also one of the schools that parents are protesting over. Yohanes told The Reporter that, despite the school being initially established as a community school, through time, the Ministry found the school engaged in education investment.
The Ministry issued an ultimatum letter to the Greek community school to register as a nonprofit international school through Civil Society Registration Authority and get an operation license until September 2022.
The director mentioned that the Ministry is preparing a directive to govern international schools that aspiring to transform from community schools into international nonprofit schools.
According to the director, in Ethiopia, there are three types of school modalities. These are community schools, private schools and international schools. However, some are engaged in activities different from what they were established with.