• Unemployed private school teachers appealed to the government for help, saying they face stigma as they seek casual jobs from parents whose children they teach.
• The teachers were paid from fees and now are unpaid. They received a month's supply of foodstuffs from Ahadi Kenya Trust.
Private school teachers in Murang’a are working on farms, doing construction work and taking any casual jobs to support their families while schools are closed.
They appealed to the national government for support on Saturday at Njumbi ACK church where they received food rations from Ahadi Kenya CEO Stanley Kamau.
Their income depends on fees paid by parents. Schools closed in March due to the coronavirus and are to reopen in January if the pandemic is contained.
Also in financial trouble are teachers employed by school boards in public schools.
Teachers from Mathioya subcounty said they are suffering without a salary. Some have been forced to abandon rental houses and return to their parents’ homes.
Teacher Teresiah Nyakairu from Muthangari Primary School said she now seeks casual jobs to support herself, including construction work.
She said teachers face a lot of stigma from the community as they beg for casual jobs from the same parents whose children they teach.
“They ask why our education is not supporting us yet we encourage children to learn so they can support themselves in the future,” she said.
Nyakairu said she has been employed by the school’s board for four years and never imagined she would be working on farms though she is technically employed by the school board.
She was last paid in March but some parents had fees’ arrears so she was not paid in full.
“We are Kenyan and we also pay taxes. The government should support us as it is supporting those under the Teachers Service Commission until schools resume,” Nyakairu said.
Teaching is a calling and she will never abandon it, she said.
Teacher John Mwangi said he is unable to provide for his wife and two children.
He said he is a former street boy and became a teacher to save himself and his family from abject poverty.
Displaying his roughened hands, Mwangi said he is now tilling farms and picking tea to put food on the table.
“We are crying out to the government to consider us and give us support so that we do not go hungry,” he said.
While donating food to teachers, Ahadi Kenya CEO Kamau urged the government to authorise schools to pay teachers using fees paid by parents in the first term.
“The first term was not fully over when the schools were closed due to the pandemic,” he said.
Schools should give teachers stipends and deduct the money from their salaries when learning resumes, he said.
Many private schools still need the money to pay rent, maintenance and cover other expenses, even while school is closed. Some have undertaken digital learning.
Kamau provided the teachers with a month’s supply of foodstuffs. He urged them to form a group and start businesses that will cushion them from further suffering if the pandemic continues past January.
Many teachers are sinking into depression due to their sudden loss of income, he said.
Kamau said his employees will go around the county to establish the number of needy teachers so ways to support them can be devised.
The CEO said the country may succeed in the fight against Covid-19 but end up with high levels of depression among teachers, which could hurt the education sector.
“It is very sad we are not taking these teachers as a family in the school unit. The fact their [public school] colleagues are being paid while they suffer worsens the situation,” he said.
Kamau urged residents to treat teachers with dignity when they ask for casual jobs and stop stigmatising them.
(Edited by V. Graham)