By Albert Nyawawa
Thousands of private school teachers and employees of private schools in Kenya have gone without pay for months , The Times has established, widening the increasing unemployment crisis occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic.
And now hundreds of private school owners around Kenya are contemplating closing down the institutions entirely and exiting the sector completely, following financial troubles brought about by Covid-19 pandemic.
The fate of many private schools in the country hangs in the balance with owners who spoke to The Times saying their staff have been worst hit by absence of salaries to pay teachers who are hard hit in the pocket by the closure of schools.
The owners who spoke to The Times expressed concern that many private schools may not reopen in January 2021 due to financial challenges owners have passed through since closure of schools in March 2020.
“We had 10 teachers by the time of closure. The most senior class in our school is grade 5. Payment of salaries? Impossible! We last paid salaries in April and nil in May and June. We won’t be paying till we reopen,” the owner of one private school in Homa Bay told The Times.
Many a private school owner who spoke to The Times pleads with the government to consider chipping in and helping directors of private schools stay afloat and keep salaried employees at work.
“This would be great! You see, our teachers too have obligations and families. I can’t imagine how things are for them now but truth is, we can’t help,” says Caroline Mboya, proprietor of Regina School Homa Bay.
The directors of private schools say the current situation could easy dissuade some teachers from returning to class when schools reopen in January 2021.
“The situation is demoralizing for any teacher and school owner. Many proprietors may opt out of the (private schools) sector to other industries but for the teachers, as long as there will be schools running, they won’t lack,” one director told us
Many of the directors of private schools urge that public health protocols being formulated by the Ministries of Health and Education for implementation in schools geared at reopening in January must consider the financial conditions of private schools too.
“Health was a serious concern to us as owners of private schools especially as the communication to reopen schools in September was made (which was since reversed) .
However, now that all is closed the inequality is ended. Still, should schools resume, it’s compelling to the government to ensure the health measures apply to all schools or they’ll come to nought,” one school owner told The Times.
Just how are private schools going to survive financially going forward? Many owners only see a bleak future.
“Nobody foresaw such a situation anywhere in the world. This is unprecedented and nobody can claim to have prepared for it, I don’t think anyone will. Not even with an insurance cover.Still, big schools with good reserves can survive in the short term.In the long term, technology is the best shot. There’s going to be a scramble for the online learning space,” says Caroline Mboya, a private school proprietor.
Private school owners say the biggest challenge when schools resume in January 2021 will be be the large student populations and the need to prevent spread of the virus.
“Numbers isn’t really the challenge because we can address that by halving the population present in school at anytime and doing shifts.The real challenge is the Kenyan culture of non adherence to set rules and regulations. Will parents and teachers religiously follow these guidelines?, posed a school owner who spoke to The Times.