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FG’s promise to pay private school teachers

By Editorial Board
26 July 2020   |   3:21 am
The move by the federal government to take over the payment of outstanding salary arrears of private school teachers as a palliative to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 on the hapless folks

The move by the federal government to take over the payment of outstanding salary arrears of private school teachers as a palliative to cushion the impacts of COVID-19 on the hapless folks is a step in the right direction. 

There is nothing wrong in the government taking over the payment of private schools salaries at a critical time like this. That would be a remarkable palliative for the private school’s teachers who have been suffering untold hardship since last March. The gesture will be a plus for the government for showing sensitivity to the plight of a section of the citizenry. Government should expedite action on the payment process to alleviate their suffering.

There is no doubt that workers in different sectors of the economy have been hard hit by the non-payment of salaries and other entitlements following the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The teachers are not left out in this unfortunate turn of events. And the case of private school teachers is even worse and daunting since the schools were shut.

The National Association of Private School Teachers (NAPST), the umbrella body of the group, had raised the alarm about the deplorable and unbearable plight of the teachers because of the prolonged closure of schools.

NAPST President, Augustine Akhigbe, who raised the alarm while addressing a press conference in Abuja, lamented that since the schools were closed in March, private school teachers have not been paid their monthly salaries. He, therefore, solicited for government and other philanthropic interventions to alleviate the suffering of the teachers. 

“A good number of private school teachers were last paid in February. The closure of schools for the whole third term of 2019/2020 academic session means that no tuition payment and obviously, salaries for months running will be paid.”

“Obviously, private school teachers are facing difficult times with no hope insight as to when the lockdown on schools will be lifted,” he lamented. Akhigbe bemoaned that the states and Federal Government have not considered private school teachers as a group deserving palliatives whereas they are in the group of vulnerable Nigerians. According to available statistics, over 100,000 families of private school teachers, most especially, where both husband and wife are private schools teachers have been unable to feed their families and cannot pay basic bills.

Corroborating, the President, National Association of Private Schools (NAPPS), Chief Yomi Otubela called on the government to mitigate the hardship private school teachers face because of the pandemic.

The salary arrears at issue could be paid from the N2.3 trillion stimulus package recently approved by the Federal Government to support businesses, including the private education sub-sector.

It is noteworthy that private school teachers have been among the worst hit since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown broke out. Like other businesses, the schools have remained shut, thereby making it impossible for the proprietors to meet obligations to their workers.

The justification for requesting palliatives from the federal government was borne out of the fact that the abrupt closure of schools to protect students from the outbreak of the pandemic, unfortunately, brought a lot of untold hardship to the private school owners who rely heavily on fees to meet up with obligations such as payment of salaries, operational costs and repayment of loans obtained from various financial institutions. 

The recent announcement of the approval of N2.3 trillion stimulus package to support businesses by the federal government with the inclusion of private schools is a welcome development to save the private education sub-sector from imminent collapse.

It is significant that NAPPS leadership has appreciated the government for the swift response to a request to the government for support. It will be remarkable if the federal government will release guidelines for private schools to benefit from this support immediately.

It makes a lot of sense too for all state governments to complement the efforts of the federal government to pay private school teachers salary arrears. The teachers have been supporting the nation overall efforts to educate our future leaders. They have been going on for months without salary. There may be some challenges in getting the logistics right. The states and local government authorities should be involved to provide the database of the registered schools. 

There should be no room for corrupting the process. The number of private schools should not rise overnight because of this largesse. Government should not delay action in implementing this very important humanitarian intervention. Meanwhile, the promoters of this interventionist policy should not hesitate to cry out if the promise to assist becomes a mirage, after all.