By: KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE
The minimum wage may be N19,000, but teachers, especially those working in low-cost private schools earn far less. The result: high staff turnover. KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE reports on how teachers struggle to make ends meet, while proprietors fight to keep them.
Last session, Ebunoluwa Marvins (not real name), a widow and mother of three, taught at a private school in Agege, Lagos State, where she was paid N15,000 monthly – about N4,000 shy of the Federal Government’s minimum wage. It was not easy to make ends meet with that amount of money. She participated in the extra lessons organised by the school to earn extra income. However, the little she earned did not make much difference. Before her husband’s death, less than two years ago, the extra income was used to pay tuition fees of her two older sons (they enjoyed 50 per cent scholarship). After his death, though they were placed on full scholarship, the money was grossly inadequate.
Mrs Marvins thought relocating to an accommodation closer to the school would help; she sought help from a friend on the matter. The friend was shocked to learn that she earns a measly N15,000 compared to her own salary of N100,000, which she thought was insufficient.
She advised the teacher to change schools instead, which she was able to do before the start of the 2015/2016 academic session. Her new school now pays her close to N100,000 for salary and extra lessons.
“I am so happy. I was afraid to change school because of the scholarship my children enjoy. But the money was not keeping us. We had to depend on the goodwill of people to give us food and money,” she said.
Mrs Marvins is one of thousands of teachers working in low-cost private schools and earning far less than the minimum wage.
Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria (DEEPEN), an initiative of the Department for International Development (DFID), classifies low-cost private schools as schools that charge between N1,000 to N25,000 per session. Many teachers in such schools, especially those in rural or slum areas of Lagos State, do not earn up to N15,000. Investigations revealed that salaries in the schools range from N7,000 to N30,000 in extreme cases for head teachers and principals.
Ms Melody Isaac teaches in Cas Marybon School, which is around Agbado-Ijaiye, a suburb of Lagos. Though she declined to say exactly what she earns, she told The Nation it is less than N15,000.
“Teachers get paid between N10,000 and N20,000. I don’t earn up to N15,000,” she said.
Raheem Ayomide, who teaches at Praise Way College at Oke Odo, Lagos, has negotiated a new salary with his boss, so he may earn up to N18,000 if the proprietor keeps to his promise.
“In my school, I don’t think any teacher is paid up to N20,000. I took a break from the school to complete my education at the university, some months ago. But when I was working my boss was paying me N15,000 and you know in a private secondary school you take more than two classes and subjects. When I came back there were space for me. I was expecting more than N15,000. But we discussed and he told me that the highest paid teachers get N20,000 so he said he would increase my pay but not up to N20,000. He said he would pay me N18,000 and I will take three subjects. The grace I have is that the school is not far from my house. It is just on the next street so, no extra transport fares for me; just a five-minute walk,” said Ayomide.
According to a research by DEEPEN, the poor salaries paid by low-cost private schools make teachers seek greener pasture elsewhere, resulting in high teacher turnover in the schools. Many proprietors confirmed this problem, saying they are forced to run around looking for teachers at the beginning of each term.
However, they attributed the poor salaries they pay to the nature of the schools they run, which cater for the educational needs of low income families seeking better quality education than public schools offer.
Mrs Esther Dada, president, Association for Formidable Education Development (AFED), said high teacher attrition is a cross low-cost private schools owners have to bear because of the low salaries they pay.
“We have exodus of teachers from time to time, and mostly we low-cost schools because of the salary we are paying. When we train our teachers, because when they come in newly, they don’t know anything; they are raw. Hence, we give them in-service training and we train them from time to time to fulfill our purpose. But the moment they begin to get the drift of teaching and learning, they look for greener pastures,” she said.
Mrs Sola Ogunfowora, proprietor of Prescal Montessori School, Matogun, could not attract a new head teacher to her school because of poor pay.
“I had promised to pay N12,000 and she told me she would come. But I did not see her. Challenge of teachers leaving is too much. They want to collect money without working. Once you employ them within two to three months, they are getting ready to leave and if you ask why they say the money is not enough even if the amount was decided before employment,” she said in frustration.
Her experience is not really different from that of Deacon Abiodun Owolana, who runs Funbi Secondary School, Ajangbadi. He accused teachers of not being patient to reap the fruit of long service award.
He said: “As we are talking now, we are short of teachers. Some of the teachers likely don’t understand what they are doing. If you are in a school a year, two years, there are some benefits you should have if you are a long time staff in my school. In my school, I told them if you are up to three years and you want to go in good condition, you are entitled to N50,000 when you are going. But if I am paying you N10,000 and a neighbouring school offers N12,000, you forget about all those things and jump out because of N12,000.”
Mrs Dada, who runs Peacock School, in Ikorodu and Amuwo Odofin, however, noted that low- cost proprietors pay poorly because they charge low fees.
“In AFED schools, the minimum school fees is N5,000 – except for Epe – where they charge N3,000. Even at that, they are even begging them to come to school,” she said.
In line with those charges, Mrs Dada said she pays between N8,000 and N30,000 to her teachers.
“Some of the teachers, depending on the environment, earn N8,000; some earn N10,000. In my school in Amuwo, I have a graduate who is the head teacher and I was giving her N25,000. Now, she is asking for N30,000 and the number of children has dropped. The same thing with Ikorodu. I have a graduate there who majored in English. She is asking for N25,000. We were paying her N20,000 before,” she said.
Mrs Ogunfowora said she charges between N5,000 (for nursery) and N7,500 (for upper primary) as fees; while she pays teachers between N7,000 and N12,000. At Deacon Owolana’s school, the minimum tuition fee is N4,000 for nursery; while his secondary school charges N15,000. He said he pays teachers between N15,000 and N25,000. Their responses mirror teachers’ salaries among most low-cost private schools.
Regularity of the meagre salary is another issue in these schools. Ayomide said it is not unusual to experience delay in payment. He added that some schools even owe teachers.
“A lot of schools, 80 percent of schools, don’t normally pay on time. They owe teachers two to three months salary and they start giving different excuses,” he said.
Melody also said non-payment of the meagre salaries contributes to why teachers leave schools.
Explaining why some proprietors may delay salaries, Mrs Temitope Osibosi, National Treasurer, AFED, and proprietor of Santoi Nursery and Primary School, Ogudu, said many parents do not pay fees on time.
Her claim was confirmed by other proprietors who put the percentage of parents that pay school fees in full at between 45 and 50 per cent.
“About 50 per cent of my parents pay in full. Some carry over; even I have first-term carry over from last session in my school. Those children are still in my school. Their father lost his job but I cannot send them away – hoping that the man will get a job,” she said.
Deacon Owolana said with only 45 per cent fee compliance, paying salaries on time is sometimes difficult, though he tries to avoid delays.
“At times, we pay through our nose. It has not been easy. There was a term, after I paid salaries I was left with N50.00 as the school owner. There are a lot of challenges we face.
“I pay salaries in full. If the money is not enough to pay all the staff at a time, maybe I will the pay the primary section first, then the secondary section,” he said.
To augment their poor salaries, many teachers organise extra lessons for pupils and bill parents for it. Ayomide said lesson fees provide teachers in low-cost private schools a critical amount which boosts their incomes.
He said: “In my school we have extra lesson from 4-6pm. Parents who really want their children to participate will pay so the school does not really interfere. Although we have school lesson from 2 -4pm, which are paid with the school fees, we do our own from 4 to 6pm. If I am to take a student for two hours they will pay N2,000 at the least. For the lesson outside, I pick Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays which is three days in a week. If at all they pay it will be N5,000 per month. One thing I know is that the parent will see the impact of my teaching on the children. Adding all the money it probably gets to N30,000 or N40,000 which really increases our income before the main salary comes in.”
Mrs Marvins agreed with him. “Before my husband’s death, I used to take a young girl for extra lesson and earned N15,000 monthly. It really used to help me,” she said.
Melody said she augments her N15,000 salary in this way.
“If you have about 20 students in a class, we urge the parents to allow them do extra lesson. They pay N700 per month and the proprietress gets nothing from it. It is between the teacher and the students,” she said.
Despite paying low salaries, some low-cost private schools are able to retain teachers better than others. The Nation gathered that proprietors that gave teachers free hand to earn extra income through extra lessons were more likely to retain their teachers.
Mrs Dada, who said her head teacher has stayed for about 15 years, said she allows teachers to use the school for extra lessons.
“Most of the time, we allow them to go for lesson money. Like I did in my place, evening lessons 4-6pm, I give them free hand to operate. They use the school. I don’t bother about that one. I want them to take care of themselves. That would augment whatever I pay them,” she said.
Mr Bawo Ayeseteminikan, Ken Ade Private School, Makoko, Yaba, said he last employed a teacher three years ago because of his favourable policies.
“My school has been in existence for 25 years and I am proud to say I do not owe any of my teachers and they have no reason to look elsewhere for work. Rather, we have more teachers looking for work but I told them no. The last teacher I employed was three years ago and I have teachers who have been with me for the past 17 years. The teachers offer lesson and I don’t collect money from them and it enhances their decision not to leave my school because I discovered those earning “N15,000 or N25,000 and adds it to their salary. And where we have more than 25 students doing lesson, they pay at least N1,000 per week. Teachers leave other schools because most of the proprietors don’t have a way of paying them on time to retain them,” he said.
Source: The Nation