Nicholas English of City Weekend posed as a parent and walked straight into a parent-teacher meeting Wednesday night at Shanghai Rego International School’s Minhang campus. Teachers at the school, he found, were not here on proper work visas, and the school was having trouble paying them on time:
Chairman of the school board Hans Tsui attested that since mid-December their teachers have been working on tourist visas that will expire on January 20.
Tsui attributed the issue to “an internal delay in the government.” According to Tsui, “[The government] needed confirmation that we will keep the school the same size, that the school is safe, things like that. We just need to submit some documents.” At other times during the meeting, however, Tsui stated that all the necessary documents were submitted in November.
Some teachers linked the delay to the claims that Rego’s primary school isn’t properly registered, and a year 6 teacher asserted that the school was being pressured to sell their land to the government so it can be used for housing.
“We are pawns in this game,” said the teacher. “Who’s going to buckle first? Is it a big bribe that needs to be paid? I’ve been teaching here for eight years, and there have never been problems like this. I feel we’re just getting management speak. What is the real reason for the delay?”
“You always say ‘trust me,’” said Ian Lindley, Head of Rego’s Upper School, speaking to the administration. “I need more. In one week, I might need to pack up and leave the country.”
Parents at the school are equally mad, and understandably so:
“People are really scared,” said a member of Rego’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association. “We’ve come from all over the world to work here in Shanghai; we’re far from our family and friends, so we’ve made this school our home. It’s important to our lives. We fear the school will close, or the children will be affected, or that they’ll need to find a new school.”
Another parent said, “My son and daughter have been in this school for years, we’re very worried by this instability. If the funds are taking longer to transfer because they’re coming from overseas, just start the payment process earlier! This school is falling apart!”
At one point in the evening, a parent asked those in attendance for a show of hands of who was planning on leaving the school in May because of the current turmoil. Over half of the audience members raised their hands, including several teachers.
“My kid needs to take the IB (International Baccalaureate) in May,” said one woman. “I asked the other international schools if she’d be able to change schools to do it somewhere else, and they all said no. We have no options if the teachers leave.”
“We’re not satisfied that you’ll get the teachers their visas on time, if at all,” said another parent. “Your word isn’t worth anything to us anymore.”
Less than a day after this story went out though, magic happened, and the school said its teachers would be receiving their work visas without further delay.
If you’re a parent or teacher at Shanghai Rego and would like to share your story with us, reach out to us at [email protected]