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It’s a tough life for teachers with no regular salary

Readers Lounge - By Kirsten Kanja | October 20th 2020 at 09:16:17 GMT +0300
Dennis Gekonge a Grade 4 teacher went to do manual jobs when schools closed (Photo: Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard)

Teacher Dennis Gekonge has seen better days. His degree in Education has not given him the esteem and admiration he desires. Instead, it has proved futile at a time when he needs it most.

Forced out of the classroom by effects of Covid-19, the social studies teacher at Jadamy Elite Academy in Ruai calls on the government to help private school teachers.

He says the suffering he has gone through since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country could have been avoided if the government valued teachers in individual establishments, since they also help nurture children.

“I am grateful to my landlady for temporarily waiving my rent. I used to pay Sh4,000, but once my salary was suspended, that became very difficult to raise. I turned to working at mjengo (construction) sites, but putting food on the table has been a struggle,” he says.

Gekonge is not alone. More than 300,000 teachers employed in private learning institutions are going without pay.

Catry Masinde, another teacher at Jadamy Elite Academy, says she has gone through tough times.

“After my income ran dry, I tried my hand at all sorts of jobs. I worked in three different homes as a house girl, but each time, the job lasted less than a month. I am used to doing my own work and it was awkward having someone commanding me,” says Masinde.

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She unsuccessfully applied for a job as a security guard and visited construction sites to search for menial jobs.

After defaulting on rent for four months the landlord locked her house.

“I went to the school where I worked and asked for a place to sleep. With the help of my brother, I accessed my belongings from my landlord and moved them to a classroom, where I lived, cooked and survived up until last week,” says Masinde.

Catry Masinde a class 8 slept in School because she was not able to pay rent (Photo: Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard)

The 28-year-old Class Eight mathematics teacher moved from the classroom after resumption of schools and put up with friends. Masinde has since resumed teaching.

“My pupils are not grasping the concepts at all. They seem to have forgotten everything we had already covered during the long break. I have been forced to review everything we discussed, and even after going through it again, they don’t seem to understand,” she says.

The school’s proprietor, Lucy Mwaniki, admits that resumption of learning after the long break was a big challenge. “We can hardly afford to pay the teachers and feed the students with just fee payments from Grade 4 and 8. We are praying that the government will allow others to resume soon so that the school can run smoothly,” says Mwaniki.

She sympathises with teachers for the challenges they have gone through.

“The only help we could offer was opening up the classroom for our teacher, Ms Masinde, who could not go upcountry for relief like most of her colleagues. She lived there, and I can imagine that the experience has not been easy for her,” says Mwaniki.

She hopes that the education sector will recover from the effects of Covid-19.

Resistance

“You cannot give what you do not have. Things are becoming very difficult. The parents are also bringing the children back to school without paying fees,” says Mwaniki.

In July, the Kenya Private Schools Association urged the government to intervene and cushion teachers.

The association's Chief Executive Peter Ndoro said it was the government’s responsibility to aid the sector and called for a stimulus package to help private schools cope with effects of the pandemic.

Their request was met with resistance by Kenya National Union of Teachers, who termed it unreasonable.

“It is defiance of government policy to divert funds meant for public education to private business. In the post Covid-19 period, the government will need more funds to engage adequate teachers to address expanded classrooms,” Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion said.

In August, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said that the government has set aside Sh7 billion as a concessional loan for private schools.

Magoha said only schools with a clear demonstrated ability to repay will qualify for the loans.

Details about the credit facility are yet to be made public.

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