When the school year started in September 2019, schools everywhere were planning for the usual disruptions and internal chaos that we are accustomed to. None of us as educators or school administrators ever imagined that we would be faced with the dilemma of teaching and engaging our students with our classrooms empty.
COVID-19 has resulted in a total shift in the paradigm; never before have we had to navigate these difficult waters. This moment and everything about it, is indeed historic and in the years to come we will definitely look back in wonderment. But for now, many of our industries are in crisis and need help desperately, a part of which is education- specifically private education.
The various agencies of the Ministry of Education and Information (MOEYI) and its partners are mobilizing and working hard to continue the business of education in Jamaica – PUBLIC education; we are yet to hear the inclusion of private institutions and its stakeholders in this conversation. Recently, we have seen the complete removal of “Private Institutions” from MOEYI bulletins and correspondence.
For private schools, our plight is very unique and as the days go by, become more daunting. Private schools depend totally on revenue collected from school fees and in some cases where the canteens and tuck shops are owned by the school from that revenue. Most if not all private schools operate on a very tight budget and struggle most terms to collect fees on time and in full for various reasons. Their school boards have become accustomed to discussions surrounding budgets and collection challenges.
Since school closures, we now have a different issue – we now have no income to maintain our salaries and fixed expenses such as rent. The fortunate few who may own their own buildings may have the relief of negotiating with their banks on delayed payments or reduced payments; but the rest of us are still having to explore options to pay our landlords who continue to request full payments, although schools are closed.
Many parents are purporting that fees should be reduced or completely eliminated for the upcoming summer term as the children are “working\ learning from home” and not physically at school so our expenses would now be nil. But contrary to those views, we now have added expenses to provide the tools needed for our teachers to maintain their efficiency remotely. Now, as never before, we are grappling to remain viable and fighting to survive as each payroll draws closer.
It was hard enough collecting fees and managing our expenses while children were in school but now, we are faced with the realities of collecting while they are home and the same expenses incurring. While cognizant of the reality that many of our parents have been laid off and given salary cuts as their industries for the most part have slowed down or completely closed down, the field of education has not slowed nor has it closed. In fact, the demands are now even greater and the plight of the teacher now very different.
We are now in need of support to remain viable as many schools are now deciding their penultimate fate of closing their doors; for some schools’ survival is not possible without the expressed support of its constituents. While we try our best to continue and advance our programmes to keep our students engaged and our doors open, we remain very anxious of our coming first summer term beginning online from our homes.
A Concerned Private School Administrator