Lockdown Order: Private Schools in Focus – By Abdul-Ganiyy, Raji
I begin this article by making a passionate appeal to the government at all levels to consider providing aid and subventions to all owners and teachers of approved private schools who have been worst hit by the current lockdown.
For more than two months now, schools in the whole federation have been under lock and key in compliance with the lockdown order imposed by the Federal Government to flatten the curve of the Novel Coronavirus which has defied all known remedies.
The Government is commended for this bold step which is aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus. We have to stay at home to be safe and to be alive. Different countries of the world have also taken diverse measures to forestall the further spread of the highly infectious virus. Many countries have also locked up their schools as a precautionary measure against COVID-19. So, Nigeria is not the only country that has shut down schools.
No right-thinking Nigerian will criticize the Government for the current closure of schools in the country. We cannot afford to endanger the lives of our children or the lives of their teachers and other individuals who work in schools. However, while this lockdown lasts, is anybody talking about how school owners are coping with the salaries of their workforce at this difficult time? Is anybody discussing how school owners themselves are surviving and helping their family members survive during this lockdown? In Lagos where I live, schools were shut down as far back as March. As I write this article, we are almost at the end of May. Are we aware that some school owners have not paid March and April salaries? You can now imagine what will happen when payment of May salaries is due. Some private schools slashed their staff’s salaries as far back as March. When schools were first shut down, many school owners and teachers had predicted that the closure would only last for a few days or weeks. It has now dawned on everyone that the current race is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Nobody can even prognosticate when schools will reopen in this country.
This is a bad time for all sectors of the economy, but this time has inflicted greater harm on the education industry than any other sector. Each time I reach out to my friends who are school owners to enquire about how they have been coping with the salaries and other emoluments of their staff, they always tell me tales that are emotion-laden and touching. Many school owners occupy rented buildings whose rents are already overdue for renewal. Is anybody thinking about these school owners? Is anybody thinking about the welfare of the staff under them? Is anybody talking about how private school teachers are coping with the hardship visited on them by the current lockdown? More shocking is the fact that many of such teachers also spend their limited and paltry resources on purchase of browsing data and electronic gadgets to teach their students and pupils from home. The lockdown has pushed most private schools to adopt online teaching which is more expensive than the conventional physical teaching approach. Many schools have caught the online teaching bug. You can imagine how all these expenses will further exacerbate the already abject conditions of teachers and school owners. It is hard to believe that the private schools who are the largest employers of labour in the education sector have been abandoned by the Government at a critical time such as this. I have not seen or read about any measure, real or imaginary, being taken by the Government to assuage the current ordeal of private schools during this lockdown. These are businesses from where the Government rakes in billions of Naira in taxes and levies. You do not bite the finger that feeds you and you do not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The huge contributions that private schools make to the economy of this nation should always motivate the Government to pay attention to their welfare. Private schools deserve better treatment from the Government.