THE SUFFERINGS OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN ENUGU: In March and in April 2020,we all got the lockdown mandate on the same alley with a forced closure of our schools and disruption of academic schedules for the academic anno 2019/20.
Internal exams were paralytically or shabbily melloned out. State unified exams were skipped. Graduations were postponed or cancelled intoto. Exams of exit classes got a postponement slip. Unpaid school fees of some wards that were still being awaited as at the time of the call for schools lockdown were punctuated.Teachers’ salaries that of course depended hugely on the yet to be paid school fees were paused. And the wait continued through April and May when there was a high hope that the third term resumption would quell the tide.
The set date for third term resumption came and went,it continued into June and July with interjections of Facebook and WhatsApp doctored fake dates of resumption that raised our hopes with a tilt of a ladder and collapsed like a sinusodial graph or rising and falling waves.
In all these evaporation and condensations, private school teachers were left in hunger and their proprietors left in worries as well as hunger. Our drivers, security guards, gardeners, shopkeepers, and all other non-academic members of schools were also not left behind. Hunger tensed up the clime with anger and sickness. Death provoked by starvation came saluting. Teachers were thrown out of their houses on ground of unpaid rents. Some proprietors on rented or leased properties keep seeing their rents running without earning. A good number of them lost their facilities due to their inability to continue paying. School owners eventually started placing their properties for sale in order to survive. Our teachers took to hawking and petty trading to make ends meet. Piles and piles of messages keep flying in and out of social media from our teachers expressing their annoyance and dissatisfaction and telling the world that one who is a private school teacher is a jobless folk. All in furtherance continued to cheapen the value and make a crap of the image of private schools. We cried to the ministry of education and to the media yet all our efforts scratched no ear windows a dive of penetration.We were treated like “make dem dey there dey talk,na dem go tire”.
For me, I have no problem with the news of the onslaught of the corona virus in the world having seen what happened in China, Italy and in the United States even though being in Enugu urban all these while we are yet to see any sign to prove all the figures they give everyday, but I have all problems with the government keeping mute to the pains,suffering and agonies of private schools all these while. No instruction to resume, no intervention in terms of salaries. We have also forgotten that operation of other non-school businesses are also tied to the existence of schools.
Publishers, stationery stores, printers, cybe-cafés and typists, banks, transporters, food vendors and numerous other businesses are in ally with us. When schools are on, businesses boom for them, when schools are shut, they got shut or operate paralytically.
Remember we went on lockdown, all sectors were involved. Gradually the lockdown started easing-off in July. Traders and transporters that actually were in operations but abridged one, got more hours credit to their operations.
Churches were reopened with conditions which I didn’t see 80% of them observe. Everyday we hear freeing up and easing off here and there and whenever we poke our nose in to check, we see that we are not in the plan. What a heck! If markets like Ogbete market and New Market with their attending crowd could be allowed to operate. If churches with their numerous congregations could fellowship drumming,dancing and hugging in poorly ventilated spaces even without nose masks. If buses and tricycles now carry their full loads casting social distancing and nose masks off through their windows. If banks can allow crowds queue up or scatter in their halls, I see no reason why the government should seal their ears to the hues and cries of the private schools and Nigerian students. Why I’m particularly concerned about the private schools and Nigerian students is because believably the public sectors are earning their salaries.
When the federal government decided to start reopening in phases with exit classes to come in and take their exams, I heard that it was also a measure to test what it would feel like before resuming fully. Senior WAEC, BECE and PSLC have all being conducted and concluded everywhere and in Enugu with no single report of a case of COVID-19 anywhere. Prove me wrong with an evidence, if there was a single case anywhere in Enugu we wanna see.
If Enugu could hold their Ebeano stakeholders meeting in the Government House with all its attending crowd on the 19th of September, if all that I have written above could happen and we are yet to hear any hospital with one case of COVID-19 in Enugu as a result of that,then why are schools still shut till date? Why has the governor not said anything to the press up till now regarding our ordeal? Why do we choose to smile while millions of Nigerians suffer? Why do we choose to make a mince meat of private schools that held, hold and will still hold your children and wards in future? Why do we take the value off our candid contribution and involvement in economy building? Is the government actually aware of the population of labour force that private sectors take care of? Is the government really aware that we are gradually losing our work force to other professions and that it would take ages for us to bounce back fully? Above all,is the government also seeing what the Nigerian students left roaming in the street are turning to? Crimes and prostitutions are on the increase because our premature students are getting enlisted.
Are these what we shall face when schools are eventually re-opened? Do the police force have enough men and officers to deal with swarms of hoodlums should all Nigerian students turn to crime? Are we prepared to face our students in the primary and post-primary classes pull gun on us on stern warning to sit down and learn?
If all the aforementioned indices and realities should be taken into consideration, I see no reason why Enugu and any other state that is yet to re-open is still on the wait.
WE WERE UTTERLY DISAPPOINTED THAT ALL OUR HOPES OF RESUMING ON THE 21st OF SEPTEMBER WITH OTHER STATES WERE DOUSED.
When is our own time coming?
A stitch in time saves nine!
E.A.GRAHAMS is an activist,a private school stakeholder and a public affairs analyst.