This is not the best of time to be a teacher, especially in Nigerian private schools. Things are generally tough and for the teachers, it’s a double jeopardy. Without doubt, private school teachers in Nigeria are among the worst hit by the novel COVID-19 pandemic, yet in spite of their huge number, governments both at the federal and state levels appear unbothered about their plights even as many of them are quitting teaching for other vocations. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
•I’ll go back if I don’t get permanent job –
•‘Needless hiring teachers when income is unsteady’
•We’ve learnt how to do things differently, says proprietor
There is a mixed feeling among certain teachers of private schools. They were reported to have shunned the noble profession for other vocations, sequel to the prolonged closure of schools in Nigeria due to COVID-19 pandemic. The closure, which was necessitated by the nationwide call to curtail further spread of the pandemic, dealt a great blow to teachers, especially those in struggling private schools. While some teachers are contemplating going back to their profession as schools across the country reopen, others said they have moved on to other vocations and do not need teaching profession any more. Sunday Telegraph learnt that those, who felt their current jobs are not secured, are not willing to go back to teaching when schools fully reopen, but others who believe their destinies are tied to teaching and as such, ready go back to the classroom. It is no longer news that many private school teachers have been at the mercy of kind-hearted people since the Federal Government shut down schools in the dying days of March. Unlike their counterparts in public schools that have continued to get paid for jobs not done, private school teachers have, since then, have made no dime.
In certain cases, husbands and wives work in private schools and both have to rely on others’ benevolence to survive. While many groups on social media have been trying to help these teachers, their efforts could at best, be described as a drop in the ocean considering the shared number of people that are currently out of work.
For Sola Solanke, who earlier said he wasn’t going back to school when the school reopens, his Sharwama making business is the only thing that matters to him at the moment. He restated that the business is lucrative and he will only do private lessons for students if he is hired by any parents while he trades in the evening.
According to him, he makes much gain in the business that wouldn’t afford him the opportunity of going back to the classroom as a teacher who would continue 30-dayscalendar counting for salary. Solanke’s decision was borne out the fact that he wasn’t a trained teacher; rather he got onboard when he was unable to secure a paid job.
He is a graduate of Public Administration, University of Calabar. “I didn’t study NCE or B.Ed for teaching, I studied Pub. Admin at the University of Calabar but couldn’t secure a job before I joined the teaching profession. I actually was not going to be a career teacher, I was only buying time,” he explained. He noted that after months of zero salary, he had to move on. His neighbor taught him how to make Shawarma.
Also, a Nursery 1 teacher who joined the foodstuff business at Iyana – Oba Market, Lagos, due to prolonged lockdown and zero income earning, Mrs. Egbuna Matilda said she is not looking back on teaching again. She believed that COVID-19 pandemic was a blessing in disguise to her, saying she makes more money as a trader than a teacher.
For her, her change of profession is a dual prong as she sells her foodstuff for money and cooks some for her family, especially those products she would sell below the cost price.
She said: “I don’t spend my money on foodstuff again for consumption except for things I don’t have in stock. Teaching for me, is a noble profession, no doubt, but I have to do what gives me more money.”
Mrs. Asuquo, who lives and teaches in one of the private schools in Fagba, Lagos, is not going back to teaching profession, as she has joined crayfish, dried fish and stockfish business. “I’m fairly okay with this turf, though it comes with its own challenges. I am better with this.
With time, I will add another article to it to increase my business horizon. I am my own boss, so nothing much to worry about,” she said. She packages her products and supplies to customers at home, saying that it’s the best and fastest way for her to sell her wares to decent customers and beyond.
Packing her products in a decent environment is the hallmark of her business, believing that a unit of households who are coronavirus- conscious would find her products appealing. Mrs. Grace Ofili, one of the teachers in the privately owned schools in Festac, Lagos, maintained her earlier position that she will not return to the noble profession but unrecognised in the country.
She would rather put more effort into her vocation and afterschool coaching centre than go back to private school where she used to teach prior to the COVID-19 lockdown. She said she will not go back to her school, which she said may not survive the lockdown stroke when the school resumes, rather try hard to develop her coaching centre and continue private lesson service.
According to her, she was able to survive the worst stage of the pandemic with the little money she made from three families which she offered home coaching for their children.
She said: “I can’t continue with this. And I bet you that many private schools in this country will not get up again. My school is one of them that can’t make it again except
throws it a life line. “If not for three parents that I do private lessons for their children, I don’t know how I would have survived this period. My husband is a transporter and his business was also closed down at that point. “Government owned school teachers are not going through this trouble. You must know that the government school teachers won’t be enough to take care of these students if the private schools teachers decide to join other businesses.” However, a number of other private teachers, who spoke to Sunday Telegraph in different interviews said their going back to teaching hinges on their inability to secure permanent jobs. According to Chinedu Uba, there is no need for shunning teaching when there is no other job at hand. He said that a bird at hand is worth more than a million in the bush. He said his decision to seek another job was due to nonpayment of salaries, saying that he will go back when the schools finally reopen for lessons if he does not get a permanent job before then. He noted that what a child is looking for in a pot of soup is fish, adding that where the money and job security are, is where he will go. Miss Bridget Adesawa, a primary 5 teacher at Graceland Schools, Lagos, said she will go back to teaching as that is the only profession that appeals to her, saying teaching is her hobby. She said: “I want to become a director of education in the Ministry of Education, so I will go back to school if the government reopens the schools and grow my career till I become a director. “If I am made a minister of or commissioner of education afterwards, I will beat my chest and say I have achieved something in life. But I will go back to the class.” Meanwhile, founder and proprietor of City College of Arts Science and Technology, Ogidi, Anambra State, Mr. Gorge Uba, when asked if he would employ more teachers to make up for the ones who may not return after the lockdown, said it’s needless hiring when income is unsteady. He said: “There is no need for hiring when the income is unsteady. We will make do with what we have pending the time everything normalises. We have learnt how to do things differently. It will be hard for you to see businesses recruiting at this time, except the government. “We need to see and know the number of students coming back because some of them may have been tired of going to school and decided to join one trade or craft of choice. Some of them may have traveled out of the state.
“So, it will not be wise to hire anybody now until we ascertain what number of students are in the school before hiring, if the need be. In the past, we have done a lot with fewer teachers, so we have to look at it first before making a decision on that.
But I don’t see us hiring.” More so, in his opinion and way forward to cushion the effect of the lockdown on the private schools’ teachers and their schools, Olabisi Deji-Folutile suggested that the private schools and their teachers should be aided. He said to help school owners; the government could consider working out some palliatives for registered schools to ease the burden of keeping schools running without students during this period.
But this may not be an easy option for government, according to her, as the government is paying its teachers for doing nothing as it were, but doing this is in the overall interest of the nation. She said: “We can’t afford to dismiss these private school operators.
They have been formidable partners with the government over the years in meeting the educational needs of Nigerians. “Nigeria currently has 43 federal universities, 52 state universities and 79 private universities.
At the secondary school level, data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that there were 967,847 public secondary schools in Nigeria in 2017 and 279, 204 private schools in the same year.
“We know that the number of private schools is likely to be higher than this because many of them are not registered. We may argue that the owners are in business but they are also helping the government to widen access to education. “Government should also remember that these schools have bills to pay. How do you pay teachers for doing nothing?
And if these schools decide not to pay, it is likely to become a problem for the larger society. Besides, most of their workers are Nigerians, so the government should be interested in their plight.”