By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered fears of an economic downturn in many countries. As business, employers and even countries continue to adapt to these trying times, millions of people’s jobs around the world are increasingly endangered.
In light of this, the Bishops in the Ivory Coast have called on the Catholic Education Secretariat in the country to “maintain the jobs and salaries of employees.” They made this call in a press statement released on 23 April under their umbrella body of the Episcopal Conference of the Ivory Coast (CECCI).
The Bishops’ plea comes on the heels of another recent call made by the President of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA-CERAO), Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama. He urged governments in Africa to ensure the payment of workers’ salaries to alleviate their suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ivorian Bishops’ plea
The Bishops expressed their concerns that the loss of jobs or reduction of salaries for those who are able to continue working would cause many families to suffer. For this reason, they urge the Education Secretariat to “give priority to the payment of salary arrears accrued when schools were closed”. They also invite the Education Secretariat to “enter into negotiations” with their staff in the case of financial difficulties.
The Ivorian prelates also indicated their closeness to Catholic education personnel in the country. The Bishops asked that teachers in Catholic schools remain at the disposal of their employers for possible professional solicitations, and “show understanding and a spirit of sacrifice in negotiations” with them. The Bishops also call for Christians “to unite in prayer for a rapid end to the pandemic.”
Closure of schools hard on the Church
All schools and universities have been closed in the Ivory Coast since 17 March. This is one of thirteen precautionary measures adopted by the government against the spread of the Covid-19 virus. The government has also imposed a lockdown in Abidjan, the West-African nation’s capital city.
The closure of schools in the country has been felt by Catholic-run educational institutions and as many of them have been plunged into financial difficulties.
This is due to the “unresolved payment of the 2018-2019 subvention and the non-payment of the 2019-2020 subvention by the state,” explained Father Jean Luc N’dreman, the Catholic Education Secretary. He also noted the “impossibility of recovering the totality of school fees owed” the Catholic schools.
The Ivory Coast has recorded at least 1,150 cases of Covid-19, 14 related deaths, and 468 recovered patients. A total of another 31,000 people have been infected in Africa.