…as Kumasi-based NGO joins fray
The call for private educational institutions to be included in the GH¢600million stimulus package for businesses is gathering steam, with Pastor Thomas Broni, Director, Royal Priesthood Educational Consult (ROPEC), an education-focused non-governmental organisation (NGO), adding his voice.
To him, since schools have been affected by the ban on public and social gatherings, it is prudent that the Ministry of Education and government come to the aid of private educational institutions across primary, junior and senior high to keep them in business, or they could collapse.
With no date set for schools to resume following the order to close down due to the coronavirus pandemic scare, Pastor Broni noted that the rate of unemployment keeps going up as teachers in these schools are asked to stay at home with half or no income.
“I therefore appeal to government and the Ministry of Education to consider including private school operators in the stimulus package and other incentives announced for businesses. I also urge financial institutions in the country to intervene and offer affordable loan packages to private school operators,” he said.
His call comes right on the heels of one made last week by the Conference of Heads of Private Second-Circle Schools (CHOPSS), an association of private senior high schools in Ghana, which is also calling on government to include them in distribution of the COVID-19 soft loan or stimulus package.
President of CHOPSS, I.K. Mensah, in an interview said: “We are aware that government is bringing some assistance or relief to private businesses, and all we are saying is that private schools are also private business entities. So, we are pleading with government that whatever undertaking is being done, the private SHS and basic schools must be included.
Touching on the adverse effects of closing down schools and the subsequent lockdown, he said: “Last month, March, most private schools could not pay their teachers; and with this month of April, it will be absolutely impossible for all of us to pay.
“This is because all those students who are owing us have all gone home, and those who are about to write their WASSCE are those who even owe more; and it is during this examination time that parents come to pay. But now that they are home, what money will the heads of schools get to pay the teachers?” Mr. Mensah quizzed.
The situation in the Ashanti Region
As an NGO based in the Ashanti Region, Pastor Broni also disclosed that some of the schools with pupils preparing to write the Basic Education Certification Examination (B.E.C.E) have had to make some extra commitment to have online interactions with the pupils and keep them active, pending an announcement from the Ministry of Education and West Africa Examination Council (WAEC).
The development, he stated, has taken a toll on the finances of private school operators, especially given that they were unprepared for the closure. He fears that if the situation stays the same, those schools will have no option than to lay-off their staff to lessen their burden.
Meanwhile, he also appealed to benevolent organisations and other individuals to assist ROPEC provide the over-50 partner private schools in the region with handwashing buckets, sanitisers, soap, tissue and others for the use of children when schools resume.
Proprietress of Sunset Mount Academy in Kumasi, Gladys Boamah, also acknowledged that they were unprepared for the closure. She noted that the academic calendar’s disruption due to outbreak of the disease has caused a financial gap owing to the inability to collect fees. She said, for example, that with a huge percentage of school fees being in arrears, taking care of a staff population of about 25 has brought a financial burden since the little reserves have been depleted.
Mrs. Boamah disclosed that she has almost exhausted all her options to be able to meet the financial upkeep of her staff, in addition to other arrangements to keep JHS 3 pupils prepared for any announcement to write their final exams. “In the absence of any help from government to us, it will affect running the school,” which means they will be on the verge of collapsing.
She said this is worrying since the staff and their dependents rely on salaries they receive from the school for their survival. “Currently, we have introduced an online platform where teachers make efforts to reach parents with assignments and others for the pupils. We are doing this to keep them occupied and prepared, just in case.”