Private Schools Need Govt Support To Pay Employees Amid Pandemic

Nazeer Arjio argues that amid pandemic schools are facing acute financial crunch and looking towards the government for support to pay their employees.

According to Solomon Ortiz, teachers are our greatest public servants, they spend their lives educating and shaping the future of the nation. It is the teacher who transfers knowledge, skills, and wisdom. This is the reason why those who are engaged in this prophetic profession are highly esteemed.

But unfortunately, educators in this state of Pakistan are least respected and under-paid, and to top it all, they remain neglected especially those working in the private sector. Covid -19 has negatively impacted household income of every section of society in general, the private school teachers in particular.

The closure of schools has created an acute financial crisis. Faced with financial crisis emanating from extended closure of institutions and subsequent non-payment of fees, the majority of educational institutions either have fired their staff or refused to pay their salaries.

I have identified three categories of these schools: i) big names, like the Beaconhouse, the City School, and the Army Public School, having branches all over the country; the IBA community and SABIST schools operating at the provincial level; and single-branch schools, which are in majority.

Elite schools catering to bureaucracy, business tycoons and feudal lords have enough amount in their accounts to pay their employees. However, the schools that are operating on a small level employ majority of the teachers across the country and these are the ones hit hardest by the pandemic. They have become penniless and have stopped paying salaries to the staff. Only some schools in this category have managed to give half a salary to both teaching and non-teaching staff.

Given not enough earning, such small organizations keep a month's salary in their coffers in order to manage financial matters. The teaching staff working in small organisations were engaged in coaching centres which too have come to a halt following the precautionary measures.

Very recently, "No classes, no fees” movement was launched on social media by some parents, adding fuel to the fire. What the parents did not realise was that refusing to pay fees to schools of their children was akin to pushing the economically impoverished teaching community at risk of destitution.

Keeping the monetary misery of the teaching community in mind, the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation (APPSF) had held demonstrations across the country demanding to reopen schools while introducing some standard operating procedures (SOPs) so that financial difficulties faced by the teachers could be over.

The priority put in place to protect schooling children from the pandemic, is a praiseworthy step. However, a policy should be put in place, to pull the starving children of teachers out of abject poverty.

These are extraordinary circumstances, and extraordinary measures are needed to give much-needed relief.

Social media movement "No classes, no fees"be replaced with "take fees, feed the faculty ".

In these hard times, parents must play their positive role and the civil society must discourage the narrative of “no fees collection” during the closure of institutions.

It is to be noted that it is the well-off, the government employees and the business community who opt for private schooling for their new generation. Let the children of those teaching our children, not be allowed to go to bed hungry; this could be achieved by giving fees to school authorities.

Amid a pandemic, it is likely that the schools will remain closed for longer than expected and announced time period. And, it is this situation demanding those at the helm of county's affairs to carve out an urgent economic package for the teaching community while taking schools' management and owners on board.

There should be some Ehsaas-kind consideration package for this cash-starved teaching community. Or, the State Bank of Pakistan should give interest-free loans to the cash-starved schools, returnable in easy installments.