This is not the best of times for private school owners as the closure of schools by the Federal Government is taking its tolls on their finances. As a result, they are unable to pay teachers and non-teaching staff salaries for three months now.
With the closure of schools since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, school owners are battling to meet up their financial commitments. Teachers and other staff are being owed three months salaries, from April to June.
Investigations by The Education Report revealed that school owners managed to pay March salary because parents had paid for second semester. But from April to June, they have not been paid due to non-flow of income (fees) since the closure. However, some big schools, it was gathered, paid their staff half salary in April while May and June salaries are still outstanding because of financial constraint due to non-payment of school fees by parents.
It was gathered that many schools have discontinued with the online teaching as a result of non-provision of data by the school management and unwillingness of parents to pay for the services rendered by the teachers as well as provide data for their children.
Chief Executive Officer, Education Services Consult, Lagos, Dr Mike Okogie, confirmed that teachers in private schools are going through hardship over non-payment of their salaries in the last three months: “School owners who depend on school fees to settle their financial obligations to teachers and the non teaching staff are unable to do so because of the continued closure of schools due to COVID-19.”
He said some schools that benefitted from his services are yet to settle their bills: “Many of the school owners told me their priority is to pay their teachers if any money comes in.”
Miss Grace Nwachukwu, a teacher with a private school in Egbe, Lagos, said she and her colleagues received half salary in March and nothing for April, May and June: “The school owner sent WhatsApp message to teachers to bear with him and promised that he will pay when the pupils resume for third term.”
The primary five school teacher said she was only paid N5,000 for online teaching for April and May: “Teachers in private schools are going through difficult times due to non-payment of three months salaries. I had to rely on my parents for feeding. Government should extend palliatives to teachers in private schools.”
Some private school teachers in Okwelle, Onuimo Local Government Area in Imo State told The Education Report that since April, they have not received their salaries. They said the school owners claimed that some parents have not paid for second term school fees. One of the teachers said he was using his car for commercial transport to survive.
Mr Laolu Makinde, a science teacher in a private school in Surulere, Lagos, told The Education Report that he and his colleagues received half salaries for March and April. They, however, got nothing for May and June without any explanation from the school management.
He said teachers in other schools in Surulere are facing similar situation. He said he applied for loan but was turned down because of financial crunch. He appreciated his wife for taking up the responsibility of providing for the family.
In the last one and half months, some teachers went online to lament their predicament. They complained about their inability to cater for their families. Some of the teachers even asked for financial support from Nigerians while others begged for jobs for the meantime to enable them eke a living and feed their families.
A teacher pleaded Online: “As private school teachers continued to lament about the non-payment of three months’ salaries, their counterparts in public schools have been paid even up to June. They have not stopped online teaching like some of their private colleagues.’’
Another affected teacher posted: “As a private school teacher, (name of school withheld), I have been out of job due to the closure of schools in the country. I will be happy if anyone can help me to secure a job or better still help me with some little amount of money to start a living.
“The last time most private school teachers got paid was in February shortly before the pandemic began. If you are not a teacher you may not understand what they go through. They will leave their houses before 7.45am and if some of them get to their schools late they will be fined. The fine is deducted from the peanut that the teacher is being paid.
“They will close by 3pm and still do tutorials till 4 or 5pm. Some schools owners don’t pay their teachers until the middle of the next month. Some even owe their teachers for months and will not make effort to pay.
“Without warning, the pandemic came and schools had to be shut. From that time (March) till now, there is no means of income or livelihood. This means that getting food to eat is now becoming a Herculean task.”
In Ondo State, an online medium report state that some proprietors of private schools have not paid salaries since March and that they are using the lockdown as an excuse not to pay. The teachers explained that before the lockdown many parents paid the second term school fee but the school owners were not willing to pay them their salaries: “Many schools were almost rounding off the second semester before the Federal Government ordered the shutdown of schools.”
Three of the teachers, Mrs Yemi Adelaja, Mr Olamide Ayokunle and Bimbo Olamide, told the online outfit that since the lockdown they have not been paid. Ayokunle said the proprietor of the school where he teaches English Language told them to stay at home.
He said since April, he and other teachers in private schools started home lessons for students as a way of survival: “It is from this home lesson that we get some stipends to feed our families since the proprietors are no longer paying us. At least, I receive weekly pay from some of the parents that I teach their children.”
Olamide said she resigned from the school in Owo, Ondo State, after the owner could no longer pay them and started a small business in front of her house from her little savings.
National President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela, said the Federal Government’s apparent posture on continued closure of schools without the necessary palliatives to the strategic sub- sector is not only portraying the administration as being insensitive, but also mean a lack of concern for the investors, staff and stakeholders in the private education sub-sector. He said the media space has been awash with reports of struggling private school teachers brought about by non-payment of salaries:
“But the same Federal Government needs to be reminded of the impact the continued closure of schools could have on mental health of individuals who earn their living from this sub-sector and private school investors whose multi-billion naira investments in the sub-sector are presently under threat of collapse.’’
He appealed for the provision of educational grants by the Federal Government to private schools to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic thereby ensuring private schools are able to their meet monthly obligations to staff:
“As an association, we suggest inter-alia that government, both at the national and state levels, take over the payment of private schools’ salaries within the period covered by the COVID-19 lockdown. The reason for this suggestion is that in many schools, March 2020 salaries have not been totally paid or not paid at all. Again, second term school fees have not been completely collected before the lockdown.”