Friday, April 12, 2024

Teachers struggling in Rivers with primary schools still in lockdown

Some other states have reopened schools up to secondary level, but the continued lockdown in Rivers has had a heavy impact on private school teachers.

• November 12, 2020
A primary school
A primary school used to illustrate the story [Photo credit: The Conversation]

Rivers complied when the federal government shut all schools in March to contain the pandemic. 

The federal government has since eased that lockdown and states such as Lagos have reopened schools up to secondary level. However, Rivers has still not allowed primary schools there to reopen and the continued lockdown in the state has had a heavy impact on private school teachers.

The state government continued to pay public school teachers on time throughout the lockdown, but many teachers in private primary schools have not been paid because the schools have been shut.  

Ibimina Igbebia is a primary school teacher in Port Harcourt who says she has not been paid for months. She told Peoples Gazette, “Salaries for March were not paid before we left. Life is very difficult for me now. I survive with help from friends and relatives. There is no way we could have received salaries when pupils are not paying school fees.”

Private school teachers like Ms. Igbebia were relieved when the state government reopened schools for students preparing for exit exams in August, and when the government also announced all classes would resume in October. Some private secondary school teachers got back to work and began receiving their salaries again, but primary schools are still shut now.

A significant number of teachers in the state’s school system are women who are breadwinners with no other income.

Helen Odih runs her own daycare. She told Peoples Gazette that things became tougher for her family when her husband, a federal civil servant, had to take a salary cut, and when parents stopped bringing babies to her daycare because of the lockdown.

“The emergence of COVID-19 badly affected my crèche,” she said. “August is usually a busy month for me because parents bring their kids when their school is on holiday. But everything crumbled with the shutdown.”

A nursery teacher Ify Odih runs a business part-time, but that business has also been hit by the pandemic.

“Things were tough for me. My shoe business crumbled, nobody was buying and the little profit from the business was what I used to care for my family since I have not been receiving a salary from the school,” she said.

Yomi Otubela is the president of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools. He told Peoples Gazette that these experiences have demoralised teachers.

He said, “Many teachers have lost their jobs. Some of these schools paid teachers their full salaries, while a few paid a half but later stopped. Many schools took loans and have had to continue repaying the debt even with the shutdown. The interest payments were not stopped but they kept accumulating.”

Private school owners are eligible for payroll support from an MSME survival fund that the federal government established in September.

According to Mr. Otubela, the survival fund allowed school owners to put forward 10 teachers who the government would pay N50,000 each for three months.

Ms. Igbebia said she was among those selected at her school to submit their bank account information for the survival fund. “I haven’t heard anything since then,” she said.

This report is sponsored by PagedInitiative as part of the Reporting Gender for Inclusive Reporting project in Partnership with Free Press Unlimited.

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