COVID-19 Fallout: School Owners Appeal To Landlords Over Rents

WE want to appeal to  landlords to be considerate at a time like this. Please don’t send teachers in private schools out.”

That was the message recently posted by the Founder, Concerned Parents & Educators, CPE, Mrs. Yinka Ogunde, on the Facebook wall of the organisation.

Though the outbreak of COVID19 hit all sectors, it did hit some more than the others.

Among the most hard hit is the education sector which has led to the closure of schools for months.

However, with the gradual easing of the lockdown period and the near return to normalcy, teachers are again plagued with another challenge, that is accommodation.

For Mrs Chioma Owolabi, a private school owner in Lagos, life has not been the same since the outbreak of COVID19.

According her, her landlord has been on her neck to pay for the space she used as school, despite not using the space for a year.

Her words: “The property I was using for my school has just been sold. After paying for it, I used it for only 6 months before the pandemic and now it has been sold. The new landlord gave us notice to evacuate after it expired, they refused renewal because they intend to use it.”

On her part, a teacher who refused to be named has this to say: “Until now my landlady had been patient with me for delayed payment of rent. This time around that she is threatening me with payment or packing out. I understand that she is a retired civil servant with no other means of income and she really needs money now that is the reason. She gave me till the end of this week to pay or she will be forced to give me a quit notice. So I am running round to gather money but nothing yet for now. I am waiting for a miracle to happen.”

Mrs Ifedayo Abiodun, a teacher and a nursing mother told our correspondent how her landlord’s request for house rent has destabilised her.

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According to her, “I am a private school teacher and also a nursing mother, my landlord doesn’t live with us but comes around when it is time to remind you of your house rent and to collect his money. He was around last month, which was July and was already asking me of my rent outside where everyone was staring and listening. I had to quarrel with him on why will he be asking of rent outside as if we had our first agreement outside. I just pray God opens the way for us all (teachers) so as to pay our rent before they disgrace us.”

Rent increment despite the Covid-19

Speaking to Vanguard, Mrs, Adesuwa said she is sufferings in the hands of her landlord: “My own case is terrible. We were paying N70,000 aa rent. However, when my hubby called the Lawyer handling the rent for our apartment, he told him that the rent has been increased to N125, 000. We told him that since March we have been managing and haven’t received salary. We have been begging him to reduce it considering the situation in the country.

“My landlord is threatening to send me packing if I don’t settle by next week. I have been begging her almost on a daily basis and she is not listening. I have been asking for loans from people but they think I may not be able to pay back since schools are still on lock down.” she said.

Pain of a widow

“My own landlady is very heartless, she has been disturbing me since June for house rent, I explained to her that I have not received salary since April and I’m also a widow, but she doesn’t want to listen to me”

Another single parent narrated how she was molested by her landlord because her house rent expired last month.

Her words: “In fact,I am a victim. My money expired 31st of July and on the 1st, my landlord came to beat me up. A single parent coupled with the fact that am not being paid at this period.I wish the government can see and feel my predicament.”

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Even the non-teaching staff are not left out in the victimisation by landlords.

Lamenting his predicament, Yusuf Ayobami, a male non-teaching staff in one of the private schools in Lagos share his experience in the hands of his landlord.

“ I work in the admin office  and my wife is also in school business. My marriage is just a year and a month, and the issue of rent is on me right now. I moved into the apartment a year ago, and never met the landlord until about three months later. He hardly made any repairs in the house. I spent much to make it comfortable.

“Less than a month to when my rent will expire, he came and I told him I work in a school and things have not been easy that he should gave me till September but he flared up that I can’t owe him.  He belongs to the OPC so he believes he can do anything. If I had met him initially I would not  have taken his house.”

Not all landlords are insensitive

While some teachers are lamenting the ill-treatment meted to them by their landlords, others are living in the moon due to the benevolence of their landlords.

Speaking of how her landlord waived some part of her rent, Liadi Ganiyat explained, “My landlord is so considerate that he told me to pay just a little out of my rent like almost 50 percent off. He is such a good and understanding man.”

A teacher, Onome Eregbadu has this to say about good landlords:”There are still some few good ones. A landlord in Warri reduced a private school teacher’s rent by 2 months, gave her some food stuff, when she wanted to renew her rent again he returned part of the rent to her that he understands her plight.”

What can be done to alleviate the plight of teachers and school owners

Reacting to the plight of school owners and teachers who are faced with issue of rent, Mr. Ayobami Ogedengbe said educators should think outside the box and consider having another means of livelihood.

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For Ogedengbe:” The pandemic has shown us the importance of a side hustle or strategic investment. Let’s take for example, teachers in the village have farm lands that they cultivate with the help of the students.

“Some of them have up to 2,000 heaps of Yam in the soil presently and are simply going once in a week to pick something to eat for the family. They have Cassava they process into garri and fufu for the family. They planted maize that’s dried now to make pap and keep for the family.

“They planted tomatoes, vegetables and plantain. I know a teacher in my village that has all these. He sells Cassava in tonnes. He grew up in the village, with a farm life and so he is very hardworking.

“ If we are ready to be hardworking, people should realize that it is time to leave the cities and go back to nature – our villages are farmlands. They are what herdsmen are said to be taking gradually. If most of us in the city can look back to our villages, we will help create the enlightenment and legal framework that will allow for peaceful coexistence of farmers and herders even while you and your family still fell connected to the world outside with the aid of the internet.” he said.

While Mr Adeniran Adeleye called for government intervention, Mr. Ogedengbe insisted that teachers needed to have an insurance policy. “ What if the landlords survival may also depend on the rent. It is actually the government’s responsibility to bridge the gap as done in many serious nations” said Adeleye.

To me, “ Private schools must have an insurance policy.” Ogedengbe added.

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