The lockdown is gradually lifting; interstate boundaries have been reopened; and people have fully resumed their businesses as if COVID-19 never happened. From all corners, we see economic activities coming back to life. We see offices and shops reopening to their full capacities. We see business men and women reconnecting with their clients and suppliers. Everyone is happy. But then, one group of Nigerians have been forgotten. These are the private school teachers and owners.
This afternoon, I saw a French teacher in one of the private schools in Enugu buying our local pears in the market. As we were exchanging greetings, I asked her how she has been coping with the lockdown. She laughed and asked me if I didn’t see that she’s buying pears. Seeing the confusion written all over my face, she said, “I roast corn in front of my house to survive.”
The story of this French teacher is just one among the many. Last week I had to pay for clothes I didn’t actually need because the seller is one of my children’s teachers. I only bought those clothes because it was my little way of supporting her. This wasn’t the first time I did something like this since the lockdown started. But then, I realised that my help does not make much impact on the conditions of these teachers. Hence, the birth of this article.
It is possible that a lot of people out there do not really know what private school teachers are passing through right now. Even private school owners also have sad stories to tell. Some of these people that are smart and lucky were able to develop other skills that are currently putting food on their table. But many of them devoted all their time to their teaching work that they never bothered developing any other skills or even starting up a side hustle. Some of them work in schools, where side hustles are prohibited and those that engage in them secretly are sacked if discovered. We also have those that listened to some HR experts that stood against side hustles on the ground “serving two masters at a time”. The end result is that this group of people are paying dearly for crimes they didn’t commit.
I brought up this issue of providing palliatives for private school teachers in a WhatsApp group, where many of the members are private school teachers, and I found out that most of them need help. Some are breadwinners while others need to support their spouses, parents, siblings and what have you. However, from the comments made by these teachers, I found out that they could be best helped by:
- Providing them with jobs: Some of these teachers wouldn’t mind doing the jobs of sales personnel or sales clerks as they wait for schools’ reopening. This is just to say that if you have a job, no matter how small it is, please consider that private school teacher that has dependents. Give him/her the privilege of working for you until schools reopen.
- Partnership: I don’t know if this is the right word to use. But the thing here is that some of these teachers that have skills do not have the resources to set up shops or even advertise their works and services. One of my children’s teachers , a dressmaker confided in me that she cannot rent a shop and she does not have a good android phone to snap and send her works into the internet. I actually advised her to look for a tailor she can attach herself to and maybe pay commissions or something like that. Those that have barber shops have been of great help in this situation. I don’t know the business you have, but if it is the type that you think a teacher you know can attach to in order to make a living, kindly help out here.
- Patronise them: Sometimes the best way to help a person is by buying whatever he/she is selling. Some teachers have resorted to selling petty things to keep body and soul together. Please, if you find any of them, deep your hands into your pockets and buy from them. Look at this as your way of putting food on their table. This doesn’t mean you should hesitate to give them feedback on their merchandise (in case they sell substandard goods and services).
- Teach them: I would have said “expose them to knowledge” but I think “teach them” will serve a better purpose here. Now, in that WhatsApp group I talked about earlier, one of the members that is into investment came out to lecture us on the importance of investing (not saving) for the rainy day. Another person took her time to talk about businesses she does from home with her phone. Some people were surprised as they learnt about these things. This is just to show that most people don’t really know other ways they can make money. In other words, if you, by chance, come in contact with a private school teacher that has nothing he/she is doing presently, kindly educate the person on different ways he/she can earn a living beside teaching.
- Donate: Like somebody said, if you can, spare some money and food items for these teachers. Donate palliatives to them as your way of supporting them. No matter how little you have, please give them; you might be saving a life. You can also set up an ad hoc foundation to raise money for them. You can help them meet people that will provide for them or give them jobs. Whatever it is you feel will help these teachers, kindly do so because they are not finding life easy.
You would have noticed that I didn’t call on the government here. It’s not because they don’t owe these teachers some special palliatives. But I just know that the government will not do anything for them. So let’s forget about the government and do the little we can for these people; they really depend on us right now.