SIR: Neglected by the government, stripped of their earnings and abandoned by the society, private school teachers, amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, are facing an existential threat. It’s been almost four months since schools across the nation closed over fears of COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has so far infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. The pandemic has also crippled the global economy, paralyzed businesses, and pushed many into unemployment.
Expectedly, private schools, like other businesses, were affected financially as a result of lockdown measures and school closures imposed by government in order to curb the spread of the virus. Ironically, during this crisis period, whereas teachers in government-owned schools are guaranteed salaries, the same cannot be said of teachers in private schools – whose salaries are paid from revenue generated from fees paid by students. This has resulted in a dilemma.
But even before the coronavirus pandemic, the teaching profession has been one of the toughest in the country. Despite the lack of facilities and challenging working conditions they’re subjected to, teachers tirelessly impart knowledge and moral values on Nigeria’s next generation. They train students with leadership qualities and much-needed skills. They strive to perform these herculean tasks with utmost devotion.
However, most times, teachers are not only underpaid, they’re owed for months without payment and could be fired if they try to fight for their rights. There was even this joke in town that you only venture into the teaching profession in Nigeria when you have nothing doing.
The pandemic seems to have only exacerbated the plight of these important nation builders. Apart from teachers, school owners too have also been hit hard by the pandemic.
With no end in sight of the coronavirus pandemic and no clear resumption date for schools, the government and other relevant stakeholders including donor agencies, NGOs, and parents need to support private schools to stay afloat in these trying times before they’re forced out of business which a significant number of Nigerians depend on. Because as one school proprietor noted, “A school isn’t just about teachers, there are cleaners, janitors and caregivers all hoping that schools will resume soon so that their lives may return to normal.”