Musoni Mugabo(Not real name), a teacher from a private, Secondary school in Nyamata Bugesera district, last went to check his bank account early March when he got his salary for February.
A father with 8 dependants including his wife, Musoni is no longer employed because, after the government declared COVID-19 lockdown in March and scheduled school reopening to September, his employer terminated staff contracts.
Life has never been easy in Mugabo’s family.
“At first, I used to tell my landlord to wait for some days, pending some funds that we were expecting our school to get from the government recovery fund, but nothing happened. He is now taking me for a lier and requested me to get another house,” Mugabo said.
“I have started begging family members; I write to one brother to send me Rwf 1000 for a kilogram of sugar and the following morning I go back to him for some money to buy a few charcoal. They are getting tired”.
Mugabo is part of some 300 teachers from private schools who have organised themselves to ask for support from the Ministry of education, which they expect to table their request to the cabinet.
They present the logic, that, the COVID-19 lockdown, it did it for the good of the community, and prolonging the lockdown for schools until September, was also a decision that was informed by the situation of the pandemic and to protect Rwandan children.
However, they also present a concern, that their contracts were suspended, yet public school teachers are earning as usual.
“The government should go beyond the thinking that we have a private employer and only consider the legitimate motive that we all serve the country, train the future labor for Rwanda,” said another teacher from Wisdom school in Musanze district which also suspended contracts of all the teachers.
In this school, 8 teachers from a neighboring country who could not find an opportunity to travel back home because of a travel ban allegedly went out to look for food from Musanze district, but they got only a few and are now stranded.
“ The government should pay our salaries during this prolonged holiday – the lockdown and then ask our employers to reimburse when we start in September,” said the teacher from Wisdom School.
Another suggestion that most of the teachers give to the government is to make it mandatory for all private schools to go and borrow from the government’s COVID-19 recovery fund, an estimated $200 million fund that was put in place to support recovery of businesses in the wake of COVID-19.
While the teachers fear that the school owners are not interested in this option that was proposed to them, “because they do not have any emergency in their homes while for us we are starving” the school owners say that the cannot wait for the fund to give them money.
Apollinaire Mushinzimana, the chairperson of APAPEC-IREBERO school in Kigali said that his school withdrew all its banked income to cover four months with at least Rwf50, 000 per teacher which they expect to provide at least the essential for the staff.
However, he said the school has been waiting for the promised government fund to boost private schools through Covid-19 recovery.
“We applied for the funding but it has been delayed and we don’t know where or who to approach so as to get the funds,” he said, the process and requirements of the funding should be made easy for us to resolve the current issues of hunger among teachers,” he said. .
As of the request to the government to cover their salaries, The Minister of Education, Dr. Valentine Uwamariya said that it is not a possible option.
“It would be a lie if I said that private school teachers would be paid by the government. However the recovery fund is in place and private schools can benefit from it just like any other business that was affected by Covid-19” Dr. Uwamariya said.
She said that the government funding is meant for supporting institutions affected by Covid-19 and private schools will not be treated separately from others which are meant to be supported.
She noted however, that her ministry is working with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to find a way of supporting teachers through their schools and also in discussion with Teachers Savings Scheme (Umwarimu SACCO) to fund its members. .
Sources from the ministry of finance, confirmed to Kigali Today website that the Covid-19 Economy Recovery fund will open its doors soon.