CHERAS (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A tuition centre in Sungai Long, of Malaysia's state of Selangor, has apologised after they put up posters in Cheras, Sungai Long and Kajang "shaming" parents for not paying their fees.
The operating manager of the centre, who only wanted to be known as Mr Low, admitted that they went "overboard", but stressed that the public apology is only for the children and not their parents.
"We took such an action because we wanted the parents to pay or at least explain why they cannot pay.
"One week before we posted the banners, we warned them via calls and SMS but the parents did not respond," he said to reporters at the Democratic Action Party's Balakong Service Centre in Cheras on Tuesday (Oct 6).
The banner had the children's pictures on them with a caption in Mandarin that read: "Owe Tuition Fees but refuse to pay up! Do they deserve such parents?!"
The tuition centre, which has been running for five years, said that two parents owed them five months of fees.
"One parent owes us RM1,500 (S$) while the other came to us and said that she can't afford the fees, so we gave her a discount of RM600.
"So many times we have asked for money. As teachers, we try to help but these people take advantage of us. Sometimes our salaries get cut because we try to help them," he said, adding that many students have quit the centre because the parents did not have confidence in them.
Balakong assemblyman Eddie Ng said he took up this issue when the public alerted him about it.
"I hope it does not happen again. As educationists, they should not learn from loan sharks," he said.
According to Mr Low, the tuition centre used outsiders to hang the banners.
He alleged that three posters were posted at Cheras, three at Sungai Long and three more at Taman Mulia, Kajang where two parents are staying.
However, when pressed further, Mr Low could not come with a definite answer on how many were posted.
Mr Ng said Mr Low first said on Monday evening that he had posted eight posters, but gave different answers on Tuesday.
"I do not know how many he has posted. He first said eight, then fifteen, twenty and now eight.
"Whatever it is, I am going for the highest and will ask the Kajang Municipal Council to send 20 compound (fines) to the centre for the 20 posters," he said.
Mr Low said the centre will have to pay the compound fine, and when asked if he will press the parents to pay the outstanding fees, he said: "Kena lupuskan (Have to see it as bad debt) and we will not ask them anymore."
One parent, 39-year old Ms Vinne Chin, said that although she had settled the tuition fees after her son left, the centre's management claimed she did not settle her May payment.
"I paid his fees on May 12. Suddenly in July, they called and said I did not pay. I was shocked and they resorted to humiliating my son by posting a banner in his school," said the distraught Ms Chin when contacted by The Star.
Ms Chin said she received a warning on Sept 12 in a text message in Mandarin stating that if she did not pay her tuition fees immediately, they will take drastic measures.
Last Saturday, she was stunned when she saw a banner at a school gate in Semenyih featuring four children, including her son.
"I saw a banner of the four kids, including my son, at SRJK(C) Sin Ming, Semenyih on Oct 3. We took it down immediately," said Ms Chin.
"I was shocked that they resorted to humiliating my son this way," she said.
Another mother, known only as Ling, told Guang Ming Daily that she learned about the incident after her friends informed her that her son was featured on the banners.
She admitted that she owed the centre RM600 (S$194), adding that she had been facing financial difficulties.
However, denouncing the move as "too much", she said she would settle the fees and demand an apology.
Pictures of the banners were posted on social media, with many netizens slamming the centre's move, saying that it was unethical of the centre to act like a loan shark.
"This will surely have an impact on the pupils. They will carry this shame as long as their friends can remember," commented Syaza Syaz on Facebook.
Facebook user Lennon Low shared his experience during his time in Ipoh.
Mr Low said three tuition centres there opted to provide him with free tuition after his father passed away.
"Sometimes unforeseen financial difficulties are not the students' fault. You can stop them from going to your tuition centre but you cannot put the students in disgrace by shaming them," he said.
Shanti Gurunathan lambasted the tuition centre by commenting that they have "nothing to teach". "The children cannot be humiliated for the mistakes of the parents. What happened to the art of conversation?"