How teachers cope when schools close due to Covid
In Uganda, teachers’ pay is low and varies greatly among schools. In rural high schools, they earn little more than £75 a month. This covers the essentials for a family but is not enough to pay school fees for the teacher’s own children. So, most are forced to find additional sources of income.
Covid has made matters worse. During long periods of enforced closure private schools have had no incoming income. Most have left teachers to fend for themselves and, even then, a quarter with unsustainable debts have gone bankrupt.
The Humanist Schools have been the exception. Uganda Humanist Schools Trust and our supporters have worked hard over the past decade to raise the funds needed to establish these ground-breaking schools and we are determined to ensure that they survive the pandemic. Moses Kamya, the Director of the Mustard Seed Humanist School, says that without help from UHST his school would undoubtedly have gone under. Money from UHST supporters has paid for school security, ongoing utility bills and site maintenance.
When the adjacent Muslim school went bankrupt, a UHST appeal raised £27,000 to buy the school and for a comprehensive refurbishment to turn it into Mustard Seed Humanist Primary School. Plaster work, windows and doors have been repaired and repainted. New toilets and a fine new kitchen (see picture of school and kitchen) have been constructed. Moses reports: “The community is very happy to have a secular primary school in their area. 40 new children have already enrolled, and the remaining places are being taken up rapidly.”
The real challenge, however, has been to help school staff and students during closure periods. With help from UHST, teachers have been paid monthly allowances of £32 and casual staff and site workers have received regular food parcels. Moses points out that, because of this help and the knowledge that their jobs are secure, staff members have remained loyal to the school and to their students. They have been keen to take home-study packs to students’ homes, and to answer telephone requests for help.
Teachers have shown great ingenuity in finding ways to make up their loss of income. The vast majority have returned to their roots as subsistence farmers. They have been hoeing land to grow food and cash crops and raising livestock such as cattle, goats and chickens. Others have found work and income working as bricklayers on projects in school and elsewhere. A few have set up retail shops and become involved in other small trades. The pictures below show the range of ingenuity of our teachers in surviving the economic challenge of Covid.