• Some of the discussions about teacher’s plight on the social media.
Teachers, particularly those in the private sector, are among the set of workers worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have been closed since March 23 meaning they have missed out on four months of earning.
Some schools running some forms of e-learning services pay teachers a percentage of their salaries. However, many others are not running online classes and owe their workers up to four months in wages.
It is no surprise therefore that teachers and school owners have been at the forefront of calling for resumption of schools.
They were disappointed when the Federal Government announced that Nigeria would not participate in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) scheduled for August 4 to September 5 because it was not safe enough to reopen schools.
The scheduling of the examination for pupils in the final year of their secondary education had revived hope that schools would soon resume for other classes as well. However, when it was suspended, many teachers responded bitterly.
One, writing on the Concerned Parents and Educators (CPE) Network, a group with over 160,000 members on Facebook questioned why schools had to remain closed and markets were opened; and children played with their peers. Responding to someone criticising teachers for taking home lessons, she said:
“Is it when teachers are invited for home lessons that they contract COVID? The same children go out to play ball and mix up with their mates.
No salary and teachers are managing to eke out a living through home lesson and you want to kick against it?” the teacher wrote.
There have been so many appeals by teachers trending on the social media. The latest was one video in which a man appealed to people to help teachers – many of whom have not been paid since February/March.
“I want to say this without mincing words that private school teachers are suffering. There are lots of teachers on the street that have not been able to feed their families.
Whoever is watching this and you have any private school teacher in your area, please kindly help them,” he said almost close to tears towards the end of the 1:08 minute video.
The practice of teachers taking to the social media to share their plight is gaining ground as the situation bites harder.
They are calling for help – posting bank accounts and begging for money to feed their families or seed capital for businesses.
Peju Shadeko, a French teacher, called on the government to provide palliatives for teachers.
She wrote: “I am a French teacher and the last time I got paid was February 2020. It’s been by God’s grace the little savings I have has been near exhausted, I am looking for new avenues to have incomes.
“What the Nigerian government should do is to give private school owners and teachers palliatives or relief funds because so many people’s jobs were abruptly stopped without notice.
A lot of us were thrown out in the cold. Just last week, I heard news of not less than three teachers dead. It’s a pity that this government does not have a clue about the plight of its citizens to them we are faceless and nameless Nigerians.”
However, many have lost faith in the government. One of them is Mrs. Faith Ita, who last received her N18,000 salary in March.
The pre-school teacher who teaches in a school in Iju-Ishaga, a suburb of Lagos State, was reluctant to share her story, asking, “Will the government give me money to start a business after reading my experience in the newspaper?”
She told The Nation she had turned to ‘begging’ online for help. She said the pandemic hit particularly hard because she had contributed funds with others through a local scheme called Ajo or Esusu (which requires members to contribute specific amount monthly and each member takes turn in collecting the pooled funds).
She was to collect her share of the pooled funds in April. But COVID happened and suspended the process indefinitely.
She said: “The last time I received salary as a private school teacher was March. Before the lockdown, I used almost all my meagre salary for contribution in the school with the hope of collecting my share in April to start a small scale business.
The lockdown came and all hope was lost. I couldn’t start a business. I’ve practically turned to a Facebook beggar. I’m always on Facebook looking for help to start doing something.
“My hubby is also a salary earner though not a teacher but he can’t help me start a business. His salary goes for feeding and house rent.
Even as I speak,he hasn’t collect last month salary. Right now my kids have nothing to eat. I am here on Facebook now to seek for help in feeding my kids this evening.
I am a member of nothing less than 20 groups on Facebook in a bid to get help in starting a small scale business, all to no avail.”
The CPE has not been blind to the needs of teachers in the group. Its founder, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, has initiated many programmes to give to needy members of the group since the lockdown in March.
More than once, the group launched a food basket initiative in which members were provided with funds to buy foodstuff to tide them over during the weeks the government directed people should not leave their homes to check the spread of the disease.
The group also allowed teachers to post their needs and asked others who could afford it to help out.
Presently, the group has raised funds to start a micro-credit scheme for teachers to launch small businesses. The teachers would get N20,000 interest-free loans to be repaid in one year.
She said 68 teachers would benefit from the about N1,140,000 raised though the initial target was N10 million to reach 100 teachers.
We have been able to raise N1,378,496. This will enable us support 68 Teachers. We officially close the project now. Nothing has been paid out yet,” said Mrs. Ogunde who said the group received over 3,000 business proposals from teachers.
Another give away held on Twitter. It was done by @MaziGburugburu1 who promised to give N400,000 to 16 teachers who could prove they were truly private school teachers. Each teacher would get N25,000 each.
Many teachers went at length to describe their predicament so they could be chosen.
A woman, Merit Irabor, claimed her last salary was N8,600 in March, praying that she gets lucky and picked in the giveaway.
One Anita Oputa said she went on Maternity leave without pay in December and was due to return by April only for schools to be shutdown, adding that the hardship has not been easy for her and her baby.
Julius Alfius who pleaded to get just N2,000, said his last salary was in February and then a N5,000 palliative in April.
“Relying on God’s grace and people’s goodwill to feed my wife. N2,000 will make the difference,” he wrote.
“My name is Kehinde, Kudirat Bukola. I am a Biology teacher in a private school in Lagos. The closure of schools since the pandemic has made things hard for me and my family. Looking forward to benefit from your kind gesture,” another teacher wrote.
Mr. Kingsley Nkem, a teacher with an international school said: “God bless you all so much for helping us during this hard times.
May your families never know lack and shame. May God continue to replenish your pockets abundantly. I deeply appreciate all this help sir.”
Oyindamola Amood said: “These are photos of employment documents and my classroom. Please, this N25,000 would be a huge blessing right now.
I lost all my other streams of income which were private home tutoring jobs. I still need to feed my family and we were evicted in May. I really need this. Please. Thank you.”