Since March this year, when schools were closed as a preventive measure to stop the spread of Covid-19, staff of all public schools continue to be paid regularly.
However, that has not been the case with teachers employed by private schools. Dependent on fees collected from students and pupils who stopped coming, private schools suddenly found themselves bereft of much needed funds to run their schools or pay teachers.
At first many thought it was just for a short while but the longer the closure lasts, the harder the cash-strapped schools and their staff grew in despondency.
Their situation proved difficult because they are not included in government budget and cannot therefore directly receive public funds.
We understand also that there are over 200 private schools enrolling tens of thousands of pupils. That is a huge chunk of our education programme not directly funded by the government. However, in these trying times we think it is fitting and helpful if the central government can intervene in one shape or the other to provide relief for these private schools and their teachers. After all, they are Gambians too educating the future generation of the country. If media houses, tourism actors, bar and restaurant workers and others can get financial relief assistance directly from government why not teachers at private schools?
After all, they are human beings doing a noble job. Imagine someone going without salary for five months with no idea when shall it end. This situation can be hard to bear and we feel that the Gambia government should be there for all. We therefore call on the government to work with Gambia Teachers’ Union with a view to extending some relief to these affected teachers.
Their plight is pathetic and disturbing even to the future development of education in this country. The number of Gambians graduating from these private schools- which are often considered the best not least because of the quality of their teachers- is many and promising in their respective fields of study. There is no difference as to where one can get a good education and after all it is the overall responsibility of government to ensure that every Gambian gets a good education wherever possible in the country. But if the neglect of the private school teachers continues in these trying times, there may not be private schools anymore which will force government to outstretch itself to accommodate hundreds of thousands of pupils at already overcrowded schools. What will come of the teachers they employ? This is the time Governments must be relevant and available to the service of its citizens. So let us take everyone on board until our ship sails to calmer waters.