Kenyan Private School Teachers Face Massive Layoffs
NAIROBI – The Kenya Private School Association (KPSA) is lobbying the government to help sustain their schools and teachers after authorities announced that, because of COVID-19, schools cannot open until January. Kenya’s Ministry of Education is supporting public schools and teachers, but many private teachers have had to turn to other jobs to survive financially.
About 10 kilometers from Nairobi lies the estate of Kayole where we find 26-year-old Keziah Karanja preparing her beauty shop, a daily routine that she has learned to perfection in the last eight weeks.
Karanja and her colleague Rebecca Atuti, both private school teachers, pooled their financial resources and began this business together two months ago at the onset of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in Kenya.
The teachers who both teach humanities make an average of $10 in sales daily.
However, Karanja says that because they are on indefinite unpaid leave from their jobs, finding the money to keep their shop running is quite a challenge.
“We don’t have enough stock so that we can sell the products,” she said. “You see when you are starting a business you should have enough stock so that you can sell to the customers. But we are having challenges that if someone comes for a certain product we don’t have because we don’t have the money to have the stock.”
In mid-March the government suspended learning in all institutions in a bid to stem the spread of COVID-19.
While public school teachers are still drawing their salaries, many private school teachers are not.
Peter Ndoro, the chief executive officer at KPSA, wants the government to offer financial support to private schools. Ndoro told VOA that about 1,400 teachers have lost their jobs as a result of school closures. The rest are on unpaid leave.
“During this period what is it that will be happening? There will be no revenue coming in, but private schools closed because they wanted Kenya to be safe, heeding to the president’s call that all schools should be closed. So, what is it that needs to be done? These institutions need to be supported by the government,” he said.
With a workforce of around 300,000 teachers, private schools have requested a $7 million grant to pay salaries and offset mounting costs.
Zack Kinuthia, the education chief administrative secretary, says the request is under consideration.
“If we can say that they want to be removed from a gridlock that is almost decimating them, it can be considered at higher levels and agreements can be made. You know there’s no money, taxes are not being collected as they used to. We are struggling to get income, but just something can be done so that we also save them,” he said.
For now, Keziah and thousands of other teachers drawn from private schools across the country are turning to alternative sources of income and vocations to support their families.