The pain of lost salaries to 227,000 private teachers, the families, and economy

The pain of lost salaries to 227,000 private teachers, the families, and economy

Private Schools Association CEO Peter Ndoro during a transform Kenya forum at Strathmore University. [Beverlyne Musili/Standard] The burden on Jane Wambua’s shoulders has squeezed happiness from her face, replacing it with long and deep wrinkles. The 30-year-old teacher stares blankly in the air and strains to catch an echo of the last question put to her during the interview. Difficult times – even when they are brief, like the three months that she has been jobless – weigh heavily on the conscious. Life becomes plain and uninteresting. It feels like ages since she had a good time with her colleagues at a nearby private school, which she will not mention for fear of recriminations. Until April, Wambua used to teach lower primary pupils how to speak and write English. But now, she stares at uncertainty after she was sent on unpaid leave. She languidly talks of her teaching days as though it is history, or a feat she achieved some decades ago, and whose sweet memories are only in her heart. Right now her thoughts are elsewhere. “The only thing in my mind now is how I will pay rent and feed my two children,” she stops as if that statement does not sum up her financial predicament. “It has not been easy,” she adds with a sigh. In the last two months, Wambua, a single mother, has been a farm worker. She has been a hand for hire. Where she used to deftly hold the chalk, now she grips with all her might the wooden handle of a hoe, as she digs through the tough earth. If only it was her farm! Palm has been flayed Today she understands too well the science behind the ritual of her grandmother spitting into her palms, the wooden handle of the hoe between her thighs, before she embarked on the energy-sapping activity of digging. The skin on her palm has been flayed nonetheless. Wambua is among close to 227,800 workers in private education, according to official data, whose livelihoods have been snatched by Covid-19 pandemic. In public education, there were 369,400 teachers assured of a wage at the end of the month in 2019. Teachers on the payroll of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will still receive their monthly salaries in their accounts. Private school teachers are not as lucky. But it is not only jobs that Covid-19 has robbed private […]

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