By Yetunde Alanamu
Mr Olabisi Gafar, a private school teacher in Kwara State has bemoaned the impoverished state of his colleagues following the 15-week school closure in the state as part of measures to contain the spread of the raging Coronavirus pandemic.
Gafar, in an open letter to Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, lamented the travails of private school teachers in the state, who he averred had transitioned from breadwinners of their families to “bread beggars” having tarried for five months without remuneration.
He further disclosed that private school teachers had become intellectually redundant due to their lengthy absence from the classroom; adding that financial hardship may result in psychological trauma for the teachers who may be mentally unstable to carry out their duties upon resumption of schools.
Gafar appealed to Governor AbdulRazaq to temporarily engage private school teachers in Kwara “with a weekly/monthly stipend” in sensitizing members of the public on the importance of adherence to the government directives on COVID-19 preventive measures.
This, he noted, “will alleviate our suffering, while we are also contributing our own quota in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The letter reads: “Your Excellency, some people have tried to dissuade us from bringing the travails of private schools teachers to your attention. Their points of dissuading are two- the body of private school teachers do not have a registered and recognized body and that, COVID-19 travails are nationwide issues which should not be directed to the Governor of Kwara State alone.
“But we told them, ‘Private school teachers that teach in Kwara State, who are resident in Kwara State, who are performing their civic and electoral responsibilities in Kwara State, are also subjects of His Excellency, and they can appeal to the help of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Kwara State, knowing full well that he is a leader with a mother-like passion for the well-being of all Kwara people.’
“Since Kwara State, like many other states in Nigeria, ordered the closure of all schools since March 2020, all in a bid to curtail the spread of COVID-19, most private schools could not meet up to pay even the salary for March, let alone April, May, June, and the current month of July.
“For five months, and still counting, no salaries for most kwara state private school teachers!
“Although, this inability to pay salaries, we understand, is happening as a result of the fact that schools were asked to unexpectedly shut down at the time most of the students were yet to pay their school fees hence, much blame cannot be apportioned on the school owners.
“This very ugly situation has subjected many private school teachers to starvation. Many of them who were breadwinners of their families have become the “bread beggars” in the public; they have been subjected to mockery among their peers in public schools; they have become the object of ridicule because of their inability to provide the basic needs for their families; and worse still, no one can say with certainty when their travails will come to an end.
“I have talked about ‘stomach starvation’, but what about ‘brain starvation’! For close to five months now, our brains which used to be sites for vigorous academic activities daily have suddenly become dormant, all because we have no students to teach and no means of survival.
“If urgent care is not taken, the condition may turn to a psychological trauma to many of us to the extent that when the schools are eventually asked to resume, our dearest students will be faced with teachers with unstable mental condition to teach them.
“Consequently, it is against this backdrop that I am directing this appeal to you, Your Excellency, because judging from your precedents, you are a leader with listening hears and a man with a heart of gold.”
It added, “Your Excellency, one of the many ways by which you can help the private school teachers is not by just giving us food or money as palliatives, but you could temporarily engage us to work in sensitizing the populace on the importance of adherence to the government directives on COVID-19 preventive measures.
“Researches have shown that many Nigerians, including Kwarans, fail to abide by the government directives on COVID-19 preventive measures, because they have the misconception that the virus is not real, or that they believe that they have certain immunity against this virus.
“The best way to correct this misconception is through intensive sensitization that is not restricted to radio, television or social media; this type of sensitization demands face-to-face tête-à-tête with the members of the public and the best people to do the job are the teachers, because we are the professionals that impart knowledge.
“Finally, if your government can take this unique measure of temporarily engaging the private teachers to do this job across our village squares, market places, motor parks, and other public places across the State with a weekly/monthly stipend, you will alleviate our suffering, while we are also contributing our own quota in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This kind gesture will also add to the good legacy of your government, as no such benevolence has ever been reported to have happened in any state across the nation.”