What you need to know:
- Normally, such schools would generate income from fees paid by parents.
- Mr Maina plans to have 5,000 chickens by December.
- He was hard hit by the pandemic and he could not pay the teachers and other workers.
- Before the pandemic hit Kenya, Mr Maina had 413 pupils and 22 teachers.
When the government directed that all schools be closed following the Covid-19 outbreak, proprietors of private learning institutions were caught off guard.
Normally, such schools would generate income from fees paid by parents and the closure threw them into a financial crisis as their owners could not make ends meet.
To survive, some are now converting their classrooms into chicken houses to rear the birds for survival.
Mr Joseph Maina is one such private school owner who has converted his institution into a chicken farm.
Eke out a living
Already, Mr Maina is rearing 1,100 chickens in the classrooms to eke out a living and pay outstanding bank loans which he had obtained to expand his Mwea Brethren School in Ngurubani town, Kirinyaga County.
He plans to have 5,000 chickens by December.
Mr Maina and his wife Beatrice are now actively involved in chicken farming on a daily basis to generate money for buying food for their children and paying debts.
At first when the government issued the order to close schools, Mr Maina thought the problem caused by the pandemic would not last long.
However, he sensed danger when schools failed to reopen after two months.
"I became broke after I continued paying teachers their salaries even after the schools closed and I had to find an alternative way to raise funds," he explained.
Mr Maina, who is also a pastor, was hard hit by the pandemic and he could not pay the teachers and other workers.
"I used to fork out Sh360,000 as salaries for teachers and other workers but now I can't afford it. I had to lay off all the workers and told them to go home as I was in a financial crisis," he added.
He lamented that before he closed the school, he had a Sh500,000 unpaid bank loan which now weighs heavily on him.
Mr Maina is pleading with the bank to stop charging interest on the loan and give him more time to pay up.
“I'm talking to my financier and I'm optimistic that my pleas will be considered,” he said.
Schools risk auction
He noted some schools risk being auctioned due to accumulated debts if the pandemic persists.
Mr Maina expects to start selling chickens in September and solve some of his most challenging financial challenges he is facing.
He observed that unless the government comes up with a financial solution for private schools, he may not resume operations even after the pandemic is contained.
"The pandemic has dealt a big blow to me and it will be difficult to reopen schools due to lack of enough money to pay teachers and to meet other financial obligations," he told the Nation.
He narrated how he had to sell one of his vehicles to raise money to rear chickens. School on its knees
"I had no cash and I decided, together with my family, to sell one of the vehicles to be able to venture into this farming to generate income as our only source of livelihood had been ravaged by the novel coronavirus," he said.
Mr Maina said the school opened its doors in 2003 and continued doing well until this year when the worst happened.
"The school is on its knees now and it may be difficult to revive it unless the government intervenes. This is my most trying year and I'm praying to God so that all may be well," he lamented.
Before the pandemic hit Kenya, Mr Maina had 413 pupils and 22 teachers.