Teachers sent on unpaid leave as private schools grapple with prolonged closure

Private Schools in Western Kenya have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and now they are unable to meet the running costs of their schools.A spot check by the Standard on Tuesday established that private schools have been forced to send their teachers and other support staff on unpaid leave until the situation normalises.

Some have resorted to closing down their schools in totality and even notified parents to consider transferring their children to other schools once the schools re-open.

“Private schools in the region were hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and we are now not able to meet operational costs given that pupils are not in school and parents are also not paying school fees. Everyone has been affected and the situation is dire,” said Ruth Minish, the director of Fesbeth Academy.

She added: “We have sent our teachers on unpaid leave given that we are not able to pay them their salaries. We know they are suffering but we pray to God to help us in containing the virus so that we may resume normal operations,”

Ms. Minish who is the former Western Region Private Schools Association chairperson said that they are not conducting online classes but they are giving out assignments to their pupils on WhatsApp to do and submit for marking as a way of keeping them busy.

“We rely on school fees that parents pay for our survival and when schools were closed in March this year, we used the little we had to ran the school hoping that by May, the situation would have normalised but that was not the case,” said Dr Constance Ambasa, the Western Region Private Schools Association Secretary General.

Dr. Ambasa who is the proprietor of Exceed Academy in Ikolomani Sub County noted that with the prolonged shutdown occasioned by Covid-19, many schools risk closing up permanently since they will not be able to comply with the Health Ministry set protocols on social distancing before schools can be re-opened.

According to Dr Ambasa, for their teaching staff who were unable to pay rent as well as providing for their basic needs, they were allowed to stay within the school premises and be provided for with food.

“We need grants both from the national and county governments under the social protection fund to enable us stay afloat and cushion the teaching and non-teaching staff from the adverse effects of Covid-19. The ripple effects of closure of schools are very devastating,” said Dr. Ambasa.

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