Bianca Iboma- Emefu
Private school teachers in Nigeria have appealed to the Federal Government to take over the payment of their five months outstanding salary arrears as palliatives to cushion the impact of coronavirus pandemic.
The teachers, unlike their colleagues in government schools, said they have been “hungry” and depressed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to tghe closure of schools for six months, thus affecting their source of financial income and livelihood.
The teachers were concerned that despite their cry for help and repeated promises by Federal Government to pay the outstanding salaries, they have not received any payment or palliative to ease the severe hardship visited on them, as a result of COVID-19 which forced some of them to venture into petty trading to make ends meet.
The Sun Education Report spoke and captured the perception of some of the affected teachers.
A basic science teacher in a private school in Lagos, (name withheld), Mrs. Titilayo Walter, was afraid that, by the time full academic activities resume in schools, especially at primary and secondary school levels, the figure of out-of-school children might have risen significantly.
Walter said that causative factors could be mass job losses, drop in earnings by parents and guardians, long closure of schools that has led to drop in interest in education, among others.
“For instance, few weeks into the lockdown began; we were forced to start online classes. How many of these children participated in the online classes? It was only those who could provide data and stipend that had the opportunity to participate.
“Some children, who ought to be in school, were forced into child labour, like agricultural practices, hawking among other menial job to fend for their family.”
She added that the pandemic affected the private school teachers in terms of remunerations compared to public school teachers that were receiving salaries during the lockdown, while hunger and depression lingered among their colleagues in private schools.
“The income of private schools normally come from the school fees, and since the pandemic outbreak, the means were hindered. Due to the pressure, we had to create online classes and appeal to parents to support the cause.
“Some students couldn’t participate because their parents could not provide data. Some schools had to pay the staff from the proceeds of the online, which was not effective.”
An English teacher in one of the private schools in Lagos, Mr. Okocha Alexandra Oputa, said that some of his colleagues have resorted to selling food stuff and other menial jobs to survive the hardship.
“There are colleagues who couldn’t participate in the online classes because they don’t have digital toolkits. They had to engage in odd jobs to fend for their families. It was a pathetic experience. Though, we were given certain amount in the school where I work but the prices of commodities were far higher than the income and it was so harsh on us.
“Initially, my colleague thought we could handle the situation in a couple of days, but we were mistaken as it dawned on us that the race was not a sprint but a marathon. Nobody could even predict when things would return to normal. The payment we are demanding is palliative to cushion the impact of COVID -19.”
Another, private school teacher in Lagos, Mrs. Ejiro Apotobome, said she had to depend on proceeds from her poultry and pig farm to survive, as they were not paid in school where she works.
“A number of my colleagues in private schools have cried for help as they have not been paid by their school management since March when schools were shut due to the coronavirus pandemic. The school management insisted they could not pay salaries since they have also not made money by way of school fees.”
Meanwhile, a principal from one of private schools in Oriade Local government area, Lagos, Mr. Sunday Omokeni, said the coronavirus pandemic came as a surprise and shocker to everybody.
“It was sudden and came with uncertainty which filled the air. We suggested that government should give private school and its teachers some kind of palliatives, ‘’ he noted.
Omokeni said there’s nothing wrong in the government taking over the payment of private schools salaries at a critical time like this. “It would be a remarkable palliative for the private school teachers who have been suffering untold hardship since last March.
The National President of National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela disclosed that the body engaged the Federal Government through Economic Sustainability Committee on the need to support private schools to cushion the effect of COVID -19 pandemic on the sub-sector.
Otubela said the justification for requesting palliatives from the Federal Government was borne out of the fact that the abrupt closure of schools brought untold hardship to private school owners who rely heavily on school fees to meet up with obligations such as payment of staff salaries, operational costs and repayment of loans obtained from various financial institutions.
“The recent announcement of the approval of N2.3 trillion stimulus package to support businesses by the Federal Government with the inclusion of private schools is a welcome development due to potential impact of the stimulus in saving private education sub-sector from imminent collapse as a result of COVID -19 pandemic.
He appreciated the government for the swift response to NAPPS request for the support and are hopeful that the Federal Government will soon release guidelines for private schools to benefit from the stimulus package.