Many teachers and students have been on tenterhooks as they lost contact with the director of a Ho Chi Minh City-based English training company that has shut down a series of its centers across Vietnam without settling wages and tuition.
Around half a month ago, the city's Department of Education and Training contacted Do Van Quan, director of Master English Education Company Limited, which owns the Saigon American English (SAS), asking him to explain tuition-related complaints from students of some SAS centers that had been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a report sent later to the department, Quan said the COVID-19 epidemic had severely affected the company's operations and solvency, making it fail to fully pay its staff and teachers, Nguyen Phuc Huy Tung, head of the department's continuing education division, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
In his report, Quan pledged to resolve SAS students' complaints and said the online training model would be applied.
He also promised to pay teachers interest on the unpaid amounts of salary.
However, the department could not get in touch with Quan when many SAS teachers and students reported him to police as he had allegedly fled away without paying salary and tuition fees to them.
"I’ve been unable to reach Quan by phone during the last two days after hearing that a lot of SAS centers across the country have stopped operations," Tung said.
The division's head added that local education authorities are ready to coordinate with police, if required, to protect the legitimate rights and interests of students.
Over the past few days, thousands of SAS students, teachers, and staff were upset by the sudden closure of SAS centers, not only in Ho Chi Minh City but also in tens of other localities, including Can Tho, Tien Giang, Tay Ninh, Dong Nai, Ba Ria – Vung Tau, Lam Dong, Da Nang, Thua Thiên Hue, Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, and Quang Ninh.
Quan has signed many commitments to refund tuition fees and pay wages using his private bank account, but nobody could get back their money or speak to him.
M.H., a student of an SAS center in Ho Chi Minh City's Go Vap District, told Tuoi Tre that she paid a total of VND25.2 million (US$1,110) in March for a course of English communication for her and her sister.
Their course was suspended in May due to the pandemic and the center has given no information to them since then, H. said, adding that she could no longer get in touch with the center's employee who gave consultancy on her enrollment.
B.D.B., a teacher of an SAS center in the city's Binh Thanh District, said since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic in early 2020, the center has made late wage payments.
"Not only me but also dozens of other teachers, including foreigners, and employees of many other SAS centers have had their salaries unpaid,” B. said.
Talking to Tuoi Tre last week, V.P.T.A., Quan's deputy, said he had lost contact with Quan for a week and that many people have also been looking for him.
"So far this year, thousands of students, teachers, and employees have kept calling me to ask for payment of tuition fees and unpaid salaries, but I am just a staff member and I have personally had nearly VND300 million [$13,200] in salary owed by the company," A. said.
As far as Tuoi Tre knows, the SAS ran nearly 70 centers in more than 20 cities and provinces nationwide.
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