SPECIAL REPORT: Nigeria’s private school teachers, owners recount ordeals during lockdown

The pandemic was never prepared for. A time where schools would be shut and income shut was never envisaged. Now, the teachers are left to virtually nothing for survival. Efosa Taiwo reports…

On Friday, March 20th, when the shutdown of schools came to be, following the need for the government to contain the spread of the virus, teachers like Bosun Salau, a spinster who works as a teacher in a private school in Surulere all in a bid to fend for herself, never envisaged such a time; moreso, it came to be but they never thought it would be this durable, strange and very tough.

Being someone who had always banked heavily on her salary, not getting paid makes survival and livelihood very difficult to come by.

“Well, it has not really been easy because mostly the salary is what we rely on,” she said.

“You get minimized food stuffs, even the level at which you eat reduces because you have to save up, so as not to break down along the line.

“But seriously, it has not been easy at all but then we just have to survive,” Bosun added.

In a fight for survival, but slightly different in her own case, is Olajumoke Kolupo. For Kolupo, she and other colleagues in her school got their pay for the month of April, but she conceded that May has been proven tough to get by as most of her pay has been exhausted by data consumption needed for online teachings.

She also expressed fears that it promises to be even tougher as the school management had implicitly stated that there would be no salary, be it half or full as parents and guardians have refused to pay up the school fees of their children and wards.

In all this, for Kolupo, what is even more overbearing is the demand from the school management that she and other teachers continue teaching students online. This she stated is gobbling up her finances, expressing pessimism at the continuation of such mode of lecture, especially with May salary, a thing not to look forward to:

She said, “When the lock down started I really enjoyed it, because I was thinking this is an opportunity for me to rest, because I work in a Montessori school where we have a lot of activities to be done, so the first three weeks was so enjoyable.

“Until we started online lesson which was so challenging at starting and I no longer rest for the hours I used to rest before.

“Then secondly when it was time to pay the April salary, the management of my school had a general meeting with all the staffs on our school platform to discuss the salary issue at hand, because parents refused to pay for this third term, it was in the meeting that we get to know that our April salary will be paid but not sure of May salary.

“The only challenge I am facing now is the fact that no work for now to bring in money and the money paid for April, that I was advised to spend wisely, I have used almost one-fourth of it on data and call card. So if May salary will not be paid, how do they want us to continue the online lesson?”

If you have been wondering how the male counterpart especially the married ones have been coping ever since the shutdown of schools and consequentially, the shutdown of salries, then Friday Akhilome who teaches at Charest Private Group of Schools in Ogun State satisfies your curiosity.

Speaking to PLATFORM TIMES, Akhilome, father of four kids and a husband to a wife, said he and his family have had to live on credit, while hoping manna falls from heaven.

He said ever since the shutdown of schools, no income whatsoever had come in as the school he worked for cited non-payment of school fees from parents durng this period as the reason it has not paid its staff.

“It has not been easy because as a husband coupled with children to feed is very hard. We collect foodstuff on credit and later pray for manna from heaven to pay up because we were not paid during this shutdown,”Akhilome said.

For Jonathan Ayanfeoluwa, a teacher with a school based in Ikorodu, Lagos state, he cannot just wait for the shutdown to be over, adding that the last time he received a salary was in March.

”The last pay I got was for March but we have been provided with palliatives and some things to support ourselves during the lockdown.

“My ability to cope has been by the assistance of family members. Most of what I have earned, I have exhausted them on online classes and programs. So coping has been very, very tough, because the things I would have loved to get for myself, I haven’t been able to get. The last time I got a salary was in March, so for close to a month and a half, we have not gotten anything. Coping has been very tough and we have been hanging on God,” he said.

Meanwhile, it seems to be a different ball game entirely for teachers like Charles at Oakland Montessori School as he gets to be paid despite the lockdown.

Speaking to PLATFORM TIMES, Charles conceded that he and other teachers in the school he teaches are quite lucky to still be getting their salaries as against what is prevalent in most private schools at this time.

He, however, expressed his empathy towards teachers who have not received their salaries and teachers who have only received half of their salaries.

On his part, he believes the teachers are their own savior at this critical time, as such, they should not look up to the government for any aid, lest they get disappointed.

“It is very unfortunate that we live in a country where the government is insensitive to the plight of its people, and are only concerned with their selfish interest.

“I do not expect anything from this government. Fine, the pandemic is a global thing and I am aware of how other countries from around the world have been able to manage this crisis, it is very heartbreaking the kind of system we run in Nigeria, and how all arms of govt have been very insensitive to the plight of the people.

“For me, I don’t see anything positive coming from the government of Nigeira. Because for them to lock down the whole system for up to a month without providing any palliative at that instance, then I have lost hope in the system.

For Kolupo, she had a different take to the whole issue as she believed the government could be of help to teachers during this time.

“Government can sit back, look at what they can do. Go to schools, ask for the list of teachers there, and assist with the little they can assist with. Because if I say they should start crediting people’s account. I don’t know how effective that might be and I don’t know how possible that might be,” she said.

On the same page with Kolupo is Akhilome, the father of four. According to him, “the government can do something to help in this situation because the private schools have a body that regulate them known as NAPPS, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools. The government can use this means to mandate them to pay and care for the welfare of teachers,” he said.

For Ayanfeoluwa, his perspective is nothing different as he feels the government can be of little help to cushion the plight of teachers at this austere time in the country.

His words, “I feel the government, can do little or less to cushion the effect on teachers. Because going by the sectors, the private sectors are carved out all by themselves and most of them personally generate their own income, unlike the govt who have many sources they get their revenue.

“If the government want to intervene, I feel what they can do is to empower some of these private teachers or if possibly, release funds for the schools to encourage the teachers, which is quite good.

School Authorities

Proprietor, Pathfinder Schools and Enclave College, Paul Ojo, when asked if some private schools are being fair not giving their staff at least a compensation package to support them during this austere period, Ojo said schools must come to be understood based on their size.

According to him, schools differ based on their size and structure which in turn determine their fees from which staff pay come from.

He said for small and medium schools, affording to give teachers compensation, let alone their salaries at this period might not be possible as there is no income.

“The size and the structure of school determined their fees, that is income. As we all know that input determines output. In business, your expenses must not be more than your income.

“As I said earlier, this incident was not forseen. Of a global employment law and standard, employees are entitled to 12 or 13 months salaries, so with this; teachers that are fully employed ought to be compensated but most school owners especially, small and middle schools are on loans that make them able to only have transactionary money but no speculatory and precautionary money.

“So with this understanding, I think the small and medium schools may not be able to afford any compensation because there is no income for now and yet they are still servicing loan, paying rents and they have family to also cater for.

“Big schools can pay half salary but it depends on their employment policies. While standard schools are expected to pay full salary because they are in the same class with public schools,” Ojo said.

When asked how he has been coping during this lockdown as a proprietor considering no school fee is being paid, Ojo said, he has been living off people.

“Relationship is feeding me, people I have been helping when there is much are helping back in this season of scarcity,”he said.

Proprietor of Pre-Israel School in Ogun State, Mr. Bamidele Abiodun, on his part, said it has not been easy for him as a school owner surviving during this time, adding that from the little he has, he still gives some assistance to his staff to support them during this period.

“In fact, it has not been easy especially for those who only have school as their only source of income because we never saw or thought of this coming in the educational sector.

“Despite that the school is not running now, as a school owner during this period, I have been providing little assistance to my staff and that comes from my own pocket,” he said.

When asked if the government could be of help to the plight of teachers and school owners, Bamidele said, “the government can’t do anything for now except they increase on the palliatives they are giving to the citizen so it can get to everyone.”

For Ojo, he said he feels the government can be responsible to its citizens such as teachers by borrowing a leaf from Daycare Christian Center and give palliatives to its citizens.

“I strongly believe that the government should know that it’s their sole responsibility to give something reasonable to the citizen so they can survive.

“See, the case of Daystar Christian Centre aside giving foods, material and money to the general public. Rev. Sam Adeyemi asked all the Church members to drop their account number and with over 20,000 members. The Church paid them monthly 5000 this is the second time.

Ways Teachers Can Explore To Make Ends Meet

Career Expert and Social commentator, Tolulope Mankind, says this is the best time for teachers to acquire digital skills so they could carry out their professional duties online.

He said teachers could as well delve into other niches, pointing to the need of essential services as one area teachers could delve into to make ends meet.

“I would advise them to get digital skils. Because this season, 21st century period, teachers need to learn digital skills to leverage on the internet to teach their students. Another means of income is private lesson, some parents might not be comfortable bringing teachers into their homes but they can actually teach the students via the internet by making use of digital tools like google classroom.

“They can also consider creating online courses on their subject, as most people are home but they are still learning. Education is continuous, they can create online course and teach and make money from it. They can also document, write and sell their products. Sell products in form of audios, pdf, and videos.

“Many could also go outside their niches to make ends meet, what sells now is food and baby things, they should consider essential commodities. For this period, they should think outside the box to sell things and also leverage on the internet to reach people,” Mankind said.

Meanwhile, Ojo said teachers should be reminded that the government only closed schools and not home, hence should not stop themselves from exploring other viable ways to make money for themselves.

He said, “Wise and smart teachers can make money even more than small and average schools.

“The government closed schools not homes. Teachers who have good relationship skill, can liaise with parents and move from house to house for home private lessons. Parents are desperately in need of it now because most of the parents are not comfortable seeing their kids not doing anything for such long time.

“If home lessons are well-scheduled and structured, teachers can make more money than what they earn during school time.

Parents and Students advised

Despite the lockdown and the ordeals private school teachers and school owners are facing during this time, they still had words to give students and parents.

“Students, especially the ones to write WAEC exams. They should make use of this period to prepare and not just roam about. They should also try listening to online lessons,” Bosun said.

For Akhilome, “The students out there should concentrate more on their studies now than before and parent should properly coordinate them well and see to what they are doing,” he advised.

“Students and parents should be calm and wait patiently till we are free because Corona virus is real, although it’s not easy, but we will surely achieve our goal with patience. They should stay safe and stay healthy, once there is life there hope,”Kolupo said.

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