Wednesday, January 25, 2006

SITC management do a runner

This is a big story. Cowboy schools come and go, but it is rare to see one this large rip off their customers, and then run away to Singapore. From VietnamNetBridge: Singapore-owned schools shut down:

VietNamNet – Schools operated by Singapore International Teaching Consultancy (SITC) in HCM City, Da Nang and Can Tho suddenly closed last week, leaving thousands of students and teachers in the dark about the cause.

Nguyen Ngoc Hong Chau said she and other students in HCM City were asked to leave on Friday afternoon because of a power cut. "But the school hasn't opened since then," she said.

Teacher Joseph Hermann said no one was at the school when he arrived on Monday to collect his salary...

Why is it a big story? Because this school has offices in six cities:

Besides its five schools in HCM City, SITC has branches in Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Vung Tau and Can Tho.

About 13,500 students were enrolled in SITC schools in HCM City, reports Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

Nguyen Thi Dung said she had paid US$175 for her daughter's year-long course at SITC's school on Suong Nguyet Anh Street. "She has studied only three months," she said.

And why did the management choose this time? I suspect the "work permit" thing had a bit to do with it. But it was also the time when their license was up for renewal:

"Can Tho's SITC began operation nearly two years ago with the approval of the Ministry of Planning and Investment," Tran Ngoc Sau, inspector of the city's Education and Training Department (ETP), said.

Can Tho's People's Committee on October 2005 asked SITC to apply for a license from the city's Education and Training Department.

"However, SITC did nothing while it continued to recruit students," Sau said.

People are angry about it - people like one of my in-law's neighbours, who shelled out $200 dollars for her son to learn at the school. $200 dollars is big money here. It wasn't just the students who lost out. The (mainly-foreign) teachers didn't get their salaries paid, and the same goes for the (mainly-local) staff. Hmmm... I wonder what Singapore has in the way of extradition treaties...

UPDATE: If you are puzzled by the last sentence above, I understand. I forgot to quote another line:

A member of SITC staff met with us on Monday but the top managers could not be contacted because they are in Singapore."