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Precarious situation for private schools as Coronavirus takes heavy toll on teachers, owners

As Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to take its toll on all sectors, one major area it has adversely affected is the education sector owing to the closure of both private and public schools.

With no end in sight to the ravaging pandemic, stakeholders in the educational sector, particularly the private school owners and teachers are faced with unprecedented suffering amid continued closure of schools.

The suffering had on May 25, 2020, prompted the Association of Private School Owners of Nigeria (APSON) to demand for stimulus packages from government at all levels to help cushion the negative effects of lockdown on its members.

The closure of educational institutions as part of measures to reduce the spread of the virus by the government resulted to lay off teachers as proprietors of these schools are trying to survive, and no longer have enough money to carry on with wages when there is no payment of school fees from guardians.

While majority of teachers that weren’t displaced have not received salary since the outbreak of the disease, others are left with no choice but to fend for themselves through various means.

The non- payment of monthly salary to employees has indirectly affected those who depend on them for a living as they have to face the untold hardship and the reality of the rigours of everyday life.

Life as a teacher has not always been easy in this country; coronavirus has made it worse and it has been an upsetting experience for us, and I don’t pray it continues in the coming months, says Gabriel Iroghama, a private school teacher.

The father of two said since March he hasn’t received a dime from his workplace, and had to resort to bricklaying jobs so he can eke out a living.

“I am one of those private school teachers affected. By the end of July, it will be five months since without salary. It hasn’t been easy for me, my children, wife and siblings.

“My wife and I are teachers and we depend solely on wages that come from where we teach, but the pandemic has rendered us redundant, and I had to start molding blocks at construction sites, while my wife now sells bread.

“I can’t blame the owners of the school; they are also trying to survive the pandemic. After COVID-19, it will be difficult for schools to return to normal, only few schools will be left”, he said.

Lucky Ofure, a biology teacher in a private school, who corroborated Iroghama’s story said the last time he received salary was in February, 2020.

“I teach Biology in a private school in Benin and the last time I was paid was around February. What we are going through is beyond what I can explain.

Reacting to the plight of the teachers, the National President of the Association of Private School Owners of Nigeria (APSON), Godly Opukeme said efforts to get stimulus package from the federal government have been unsuccessful.

Opukeme, noted that the stimulus package will go a long way to help private school owners stay afloat during and after the COVID-19.

“Education sector is the most affected sector by COVID-19, particularly the private schools. While other business have opened for their daily activities, schools have not opened for academic activities and we can’t even get stimulus packages from governments.

“We have not received any stimulus package from the ministry. I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education for stimulus package but we didn’t receive feedback.

“The stimulus package will help make private school owners to overcome the challenges and keep their teachers in business, pay their annual renewal fees (dues, rates and rent) and ward-off potential threats to its survival for optimal productivity in the post COVID-19 era,” he added.

He also added the union will be sending a letter of reminder to the federal government through the Economic Sustainability Committee chaired by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.

According to him, as we speak, I am writing another letter to the federal government as a reminder and will be sending it before the end of today.

“The letter is addressed to the Chairman of Economic Sustainability Committee and Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, CBN governor, GMD NNPC and the Ministers who are members of the committee.

On the issue of recurrence of a pandemic in the future, he said, “we have enjoined all proprietors to look into the insurance program so that they will be able to cope if something like this happens in the future.

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