As educators, our priority during this extraordinary time has been balancing the need to keep our students safe while ensuring they continue to receive a quality education delivered by fantastic teachers. That has meant families, teachers and schools talking regularly, making changes to our normal routines and finding solutions to new challenges, including in some cases financial concerns. GEMS owes families a big thank you for the adjustments they have made and for the constructive engagement they have shown. Without their understanding and support we would not be able to provide the comprehensive and world-class virtual learning programmes our schools and teachers are currently delivering.
We also want to specifically thank the vast majority of families who have now settled their school fees and made commitments to pay. We know how difficult this period has been for some, but our parents’ efforts are ensuring that education comes first. For our part, we have managed to assist the families of close to 30,000 GEMS students through our Covid-19 Relief Package and introduced several additional measures to help ease the burden of school fees for families that are struggling. Together, we are ensuring young people keep learning no matter what this terrible virus throws at us.
Our re-enrolment deadline was June 15, which is an extension of the usual deadline of April. We have also been very flexible in terms of re-enrolments, allowing parents to pay re-enrolment fees according to their individual circumstances as opposed to insisting on the usual five percent fee. Having said that, we do need to take appropriate action where some families are not willing to engage in a constructive dialogue. We have therefore reluctantly suspended access to our remote learning programmes for a very small percentage of families that have outstanding school fees – many for more than one term and some from before this crisis took hold. We do not take this action lightly and it is an absolute last resort.
Those temporarily excluded have not engaged with us or are no longer responding to calls, emails or messages. We have in effect provided more than ten weeks of free education to these families, and in some cases much longer, but their lack of engagement puts additional pressure on schools and their communities. It is not fair to those families that have met their commitments, to continue to support others who are showing no willingness to pay, or even to correspond with us to find a solution. We urge these families to contact their school to discuss how we can support them through this time. We are here to help where we can, but that starts with letting us try.