Hundreds of students of the Melior Business School (MBS), based in Ho Chi Minh City, may lose their tuition fees and get no certificate as the unit suddenly closed yesterday and its Singaporean director Cheng Sim Kok fled.
On November 10 the school, located at 97 Nguyen Van Troi Street in Phu Nhuan District, informed students that it would stop operations and made an appointment to refund tuition fees two days later, on November 12.
But on that day, students could not enter the school as it was locked with a notice from Ha Liem Company, which is the owner of the building rented by MBS, that, “We are informed about the closure of MBS. We have to block the building as MBS still owes us for the renting fees.”
School staff and lecturers said they had not been informed of the news in advance, and many of them were not paid salary yet. An officer of a book distribution firm in the city said that MBS also owes his company VND700 million (US$33,650) for the purchase of textbooks.
Donovan Neethling, an English language teacher, said he has not been paid salary for November.
Some students and their parents accused the school of intentionally cheating them. Days before the closure, MBS urged students to pay tuition fees. School staff assured them that the rumor about the closure was wrong.
Tuition fees for a three-month course in English language ranged from $900 - $2,000. Many students paid a whole package from $4,500 to $13,000.
Ms. Thai Thi Phuong Nguyen, mother of student Thai Van Anh Duy, presented a letter of confirmation dated August 2, 2012 and signed by acting managing director Nguyen Thi Thu Hang. The letter states, “After graduating, MBS will have financial assistance for students to study in Singapore.”
“I paid a fee tuition totaling VND138 million. Later I paid another sum of VND35 million and the school completed only two semesters. On Nov.8, my son went to school but it closed today,” Nguyen added.
Ms. Le Thi Hong, mother of student Nguyen My Linh, said she paid VND228 million ($11,000) but her daughter only finished a semester.
“The school said that after three semesters, Linh would be sent to Singapore to research her thesis and get a graduation certificate in Singapore,” Hong said.
Many students sent emails to the school director, Cheng Sim Kok, but received no reply.
According to the investment certificate granted on January 14, 2012 by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, the Melior International College (MIC) conceded all shares, other rights and responsibilities to MBS Vietnam.
The Singapore-based MIC denied any involvement with MBS. The MBS was granted a certificate to offer short-term training courses (less than a year) on business administration, tourism management, and hotel operations.
A department manager of MBS Vietnam said MBS got its trademark franchise from the MIC, and so MBS is not a branch or an enterprise under MIC.
Ms. Do Thi Huynh Kim, MBS recruitment manager, said the school currently has over 100 students. Earlier, the school sent another 100 students to Singapore for study.
Tuoi Tre had uncovered the illegal training operations run by some schools in Vietnam, including MBS, in a story published on October 7, 2011. Last month, the Ministry of Education and Training suggested that HCMC authorities revoke the licenses of Melior and two other agencies.
On November 12, the Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs in Ho Chi Minh City proposed that authorities block the bank account of the school, ban director Cheng Sim Kok from exiting Vietnam, and ask the Singaporean Consulate General for cooperation.
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