Special Report: COVID-19 Hits Private School Teachers Hardest

In Nigeria, private schools make up a huge contribution to education while over 40 percent of students are enrolled in private schools. In this special report supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), MAWA FOUNDATION took a look at how COVID-19 is impacting private schools and their teachers.

From interviews conducted by MAWA FOUNDATION on the impact of COVID-19, teachers in private schools recorded more job loss compared to their counterparts in public schools.

Mrs. Blessing Ugulu, a teacher at the Intelligent Chidera International School Mpape, while speaking to MAWA, said the COVID-19 affected private teachers in more adverse ways. Ugulu who disclosed that she did not collect salaries from her school for over five months, said as soon as the schools were shut down as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, teachers in her school stopped receiving salaries.

Another private school teacher, Miss. Joy Akawu, a headteacher at the All Saints Nursery and Primary School, Dutse Alhaji in Bwari Area Council of Abuja, while speaking to MAWA FOUNDATION, shared stories of predicaments teachers in the private schools are going through as a result of the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Akawu while narrating private school teacher’s predicaments, said teachers were not paid a dime as salary during the COVID-19 lockdown which made her colleagues go through terrible sufferings. This is even as she pointed out that some of the teachers resorted to begging to feed their families and pay other bills.

Another private school teacher, Mrs. Schola Ugwuja, who spoke to MAWA at her Nsukka residence of Enugu state, narrated how she lost her teaching job to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Ugwuja, while narrating her ordeal to MAWA, said she was a Primary School teacher at Shalom Academy in the Odenigbo area of Nsukka before she was disengaged by her employer at the peak of COVID-19 lockdown.

In a similar development, Mrs. Bilkisu Suileman, a private school teacher at the Marum International Academy, Keffi in Nasarawa state, told MAWA she was not paid salaries during the lockdown because her school depends on the pupils’ school fees to survive and pay salaries.

In the same trend, some teachers at the Kingdom Heritage, a private school belonging to Living Faith Church aka Winners Chapel, located at the Kubwa area of Abuja, the Nigerian capital city, speaking to MAWA FOUNDATION, said they were not paid salaries during the lockdown.

One of the teachers at Kingdom Heritage told MAWA that the school paid them half their salaries during the lockdown while disclosing that assistant teachers were not paid salaries during the period.

Mr. Isaac, the Kingdom Heritage headteacher while speaking to MAWA via a telephone conversation, said only those that were not paid salaries are casual workers who are not entitled to statutory salaries.

Mrs. Gloria, a teacher at the Kings Crown International School in the Kabayi area of Nasarwa state, while speaking to MAWA officials, narrated how she was not paid salaries for over six months during the lockdown. A situation she said happened because her employer did not generate any revenue throughout the lockdown.

Another private school teacher who gave her name as Joyce Gloria told MAWA team that she now survives through begging because she has not collected salaries for the last five months.

“COVID-19 threw a huge crisis that impacted negatively on the private schools, and the owners had no other option to handling the huge crisis than to ask some teachers to go, while those retained are made to take pay cuts”, Gloria said.

With the collapse of public education in Nigeria, and private teachers making up a significant portion of the formal sector, and an anticipated requirement of an extra 70 million teachers needed to reach SDG 4, it is fundamental that all teachers both in public and private schools be protected with the government at all levels rolling out interventions that will help them do their job without struggle.

MAWA findings show that the Nigerian state has done nothing remarkably to assist the private schools and their teachers in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 as it affects education and the quality of learning.

No doubt, this could result in a more severe teacher shortage and a further decay in Nigeria education that needs serious intervention, apart from the private teachers, there are also a good number of contract teachers that were sacked as a result of the COVID-19 impacts.

Contract teachers are non-permanent teachers who are often hired locally and have fixed-term contracts. This form of employment is prevalent among private schools in Nigeria mainly at the urban centres.

Many of the private school teachers and school owners interviewed by MAWA FOUNDATION claimed that the majority of the private school teachers were not paid during the COVID-19 lockdown.

While this is a worrying situation, the Nigerian State launched a stimulus package to pay private school teacher salaries that were affected by COVID-19. However, in the conversation among MAWA FOUNDATION, private school teachers, and school owners, they say they are not aware of any teacher or schools that have been paid by the Federal Government as in intervention to help in addressing the impact of COVID-19.

Although protecting the education sector in Nigeria and other developing countries is very fundamental, it is important to note that education constitutes a huge section of the formal labour market in Nigeria, in the West African States and many developing countries.

A huge job loss in the education sector as a result of COVID-19 will have consequences for the larger labour market and large economic stability in Nigeria; therefore, making sure that teacher salaries and jobs are protected throughout the COVID-19 crisis is one sure way of reducing poverty and creating jobs that ensure a sustainable income across the nation.

Some of the affected persons told MAWA that they were sacked by their employer without any form of payoff or compensation. And, this is even as the Nigerian state has a labour law that protects employees from their employers. And, also the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) has the mandate to protect teachers, despite the legislation and teachers union, many who were sacked during the pandemic, are yet to get justice.

This report is supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa OSIWA



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