Kenya: Bridge Schools Send Teachers Home Amid Coronavirus Crisis

12-year-old Elizabeth and 10-year-old Justin follow a Social Studies lesson on the EDU TV while doing their revision at home in Kibera. Justin's brother, Morara who is in the kindergarten doodles on an exercise book. Elizabeth is in Standard 6 and Justin is in Standard 5, "I am familiar with most of the topics the teacher is teaching" he said.

Bridge International Academies has sent home hundreds of teachers and staff on compulsory leave as the impact of coronavirus on jobs in Kenya starts to bite.

The low-cost private schools, spread in at least 40 counties in Kenya, told their staff in an internal memo that they should consider the leave as a "temporary lay off" during which the organisation will not expect them to work and it will not be obligated to meet salary payment obligations.

The staff will however continue to benefit from healthcare insurance and a monthly gratuitous payment equivalent to 10 percent of their salary while on compulsory leave.

"The recent directive by the President on indefinite closure of schools to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus means that we do not have operational schools to support and must scale down support office operations while the situation remains unresolved," the memo seen by the Nation reads.

"Despite the uncertainty on when normal operations will resume, we are in this together," it added.

This becomes the first major education institution in the private sector to take such an action.

It joins a growing list of companies that are sending home their staff on compulsory unpaid leave with the alternative being sackings due to drying up cash flows.

The academy said the implication of this unfortunate, yet unforeseen event is that the company cannot meet its obligation to provide work for a majority of its staff whose services will not be required while the situation persists.

It said it would instead retain a small workforce for some essential services, which are critical for business continuity deliverables.

"Given the present situation, and unless the pandemic is contained and schools are reopened sooner, you are required to proceed on compulsory leave without pay for a period of two months beginning 01/04/2020 to 31st May, 2020 subject to any extension the Company may seek if schools remain closed beyond this period, or until such time as schools will be directed to reopen whichever is earlier," the memo said.

"Your accrued paid annual leave (if any), will be factored into the compulsory leave period and paid where applicable."

It added that the situation is unfortunate for all concerned but asked them to appreciate the necessity of this measure and exercise patience.

"Once this pandemic is over, we look forward to getting back on track, enabling a life-changing education to children in underserved communities, putting children, their families, and their countries onto a better development path," it added.

The academy considered the measures as 'reasonable' in the circumstances.

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