Coronavirus: Rescue the perishing private school teachers

Classroom Teacher File Photo

Tue, 12 May 2020 Source: Simon Aikins

The advent of the novel Coronavirus has exposed the loopholes in our dear country that needed to be plugged, but have been relegated to the bench.

As a country, we have failed in many aspects of our lives; hence, our struggle to deal ruthlessly with the effects of COVID-19 on our economy.

Let me quickly admit that, even countries with robust economies have suffered a devastating hit. What differentiates those countries from Ghana is their contingency plans in times of distress or turmoil.

It is imperative to add that Ghana in her own small way has offered some stimulus packages to the citizens, and like Oliver Twist, the populace clamours for more in this era where putting food on the table reigns paramount.

One group of workers who have been pummeled into submission and bleeding profusely as a result of COVID-19 are private school teachers. Teachers have been home for two months as a consequence of the ban on social gathering to combat the contraction and the spread of Coronavirus.

Unlike their counterparts in public schools, some private school teachers are reeling under the pressure of financial constraints. Whereas teachers in the public sector have smiled to the bank in the past two months, some of their colleagues in the private sector live on the benevolence of others.

Some private schools have laid off their staff, partially paid salaries and others have not paid salaries since the closure of schools. The reason being that, the survival of a private school is hinged on regular payment of school fees; hence, the absence of pupils and payment of school fees impedes payment of salaries.

The Ghana National Association of Private Schools (GNAPS) decided to add salt to injury by donating a whopping sum of GHC50,000 to the COVID-19 fund set up by the President. I will not mince words by saying that, the act was insensitive to their members who currently are struggling to pay salaries.

The money could have been given to members in good standing to aid in payment of salaries. I was dumbfounded when GNAPS leadership lamely defended their position by saying that the donation was a drop in the ocean. They should not also forget that little drops of water makes a mighty ocean. They should just lay off that sterile defence.

I would rather school owners take advantage of the government's ¢600 million stimulus package for private businesses to revive their crippling businesses in order to pay their staff because their leaders have shown by their actions that instead of being caring in this unsafe era, they have rather decided to abandon ship. It must also be stated unequivocally that I am not against donating to the fund, but not when your members are writhing in pain and on the brink of collapsing.

The disease has taught the world invaluable lessons that must guide us going forward. All must take a cue from the devastating effect COVID-19 has had on the country by saving meticulously in the season of abundance in order not to be found wanting in the lean season.

Also, all governments must work at correcting the wrongs that have exposed us terribly. They must execute their duties diligently by providing basic amenities that will make life comfortable for citizens. They should rise above the petty politics and put Ghana first.

It is my prayer that the government through the state agencies will formulate a law that will prohibit private schools from paying meagre salaries to their staff. There should be a standard private schools must meet as regards salaries. Salaries received by some private schools are nothing to write home about, looking at the quantum of work done to even merit that meagre salary. Though they are paid virtually nothing, they break their backs to groom pupils to pass their examination flawlessly as compared to their colleagues in the public sector.

Spare a prayer for private school teachers in this trying moment and stretch a helping hand by sending a token if you are in a position to help, for they are really struggling to keep body and soul together.

Stay safe by wearing the mask, wash your hands under running water with soap, sanitize your hands regularly and above all, observe social distancing to be free from COVID-19.

Columnist: Simon Aikins
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