Private school proprietors, teachers, and other stakeholders have cried out over the continued closure of schools in Abia state due to COVID-19 lockdown, saying the situation is becoming unbearable for them.
However, they maintained that they are not unmindful of the reasons behind the closure, adding that their concern range from loss of earnings to prolonged absence of the pupils and students from classes.
The proprietors include, Mazi Enyi Harbor, Mayfair Schools; Pastor Joseph Uchendu Okowu, Joemeg Schools; and Lady Chinwe Ugele, Rock Kids Academy, which with the exception of the last operate nursery through post primary schools.
They explained that with the enforcement of the lockdown which is now in its 16th week, came the stoppage of paying of school fees by parents and guardians which is their major source of revenue for the running of the schools.
LEADERSHIP investigations revealed that since March when the lockdown came into effect, only few of the schools had been able to pay their staff salaries beyond April, just as the teachers have been complaining bitterly about it.
According to Harbor, the immediate past national secretary of the National Association of Proprietors of Private School (NAPPS), if adequate measures were not taken, the effect of the lockdown on the education sector will be disastrous.
The onetime South East zone national vice chairman of the association, therefore advocated an all inclusive dialogue of all stakeholders in the sector “to fashion out the way forward for the obvious consequences of the lockdown.”
Similarly, the state chairman of the association, Pastor Okowu, who maintained that the management of his school has been working hard to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the staff, added that they is hope for them.
Explaining that the management, in the absence of funds to pay them their salary for the month of April, provided them with palliatives instead, said the backlog will certainly be paid to them at the end of the pandemic.
They both disclosed that as a way forward, they have embraced virtual learning, which they, however noted is not without its inherent challenges to keep both the pupils and students busy with their studies at home.
On her part, Lady Chinwe Ugele, the director, Rock Kids Academy, told LEADERSHIP that the school is less than one year old and the pupils are easy to manage, adding that the staff are few and are not owed any salaries.
She said her major worry is that both the pupils and teachers have stopped coming together to learn and interact with each other and the fear of when the pandemic will come to an end without any loss of jobs or lives.
While narrating her ordeal since the lockdown, Aunty Caroleen Isikaku, who teaches in one of the schools, related that “it has not been easy for my family surviving these three months with the paltry salary.”
Speaking also, Mr. Mbamalu Igwebuike, a bookseller in Ariaria International Market, Aba and a father of five decried the effect of the lockdown generally, saying the education and health sectors appear to be the worst hit.
According to him, he has been spending more on the upkeep of the children per head including their schools fees than he was doing when the schools were on, calling for a lasting solution to the situation before it gets out of hand.
Likewise, a guardian and counselling expect, Mrs Ifeyinwa Maduabuchi, noted with concern, the consequences of the lockdown on the country’s education sector, adding that no matter how light one sees it, it will affect the youths most.
Although she was not emphatic on her position on the reopening of the schools or not, she however maintained that during this time too many things may have gone wrong in the lives of the pupils and students both educationally and socially.