, 25 April, 2020 / 2:04 AM
Bishops in Ivory Coast have called on the Catholic Education Secretariat to “maintain the jobs and salaries of employees” in the West African nation despite challenges occasioned by COVID-19.
The call was made in a Press Release in which the Bishops, under their umbrella body of Episcopal Conference of Ivory Coast (CECCI) invited “the Catholic Education Secretariat to maintain the jobs and salaries of staff and to enter into negotiations with them on the modalities in case of difficulties in paying.”
In their April 23 statement, the Bishops also urged the Education Secretariat “to give priority to the payment of salary arrears accrued when schools were closed.”
Catholic schools and universities have been closed in Ivory Coast since March 17 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This closure, according to the Catholic Education Secretary, Fr. Jean Luc N'dreman, has plunged the learning institutions into serious financial difficulties.
On the part of Catholic Schools, the challenges comes from “unresolved payment of the 2018-2019 subvention and the non-payment of the 2019-2020 subvention by the State, and the impossibility of recovering the totality of school Fees owed by the families,” the Bishops explained in their April 23 Press Statement.
The Bishops are also concerned about COVID-19 restrictions including loss of job and downward revisions of salaries for those who are able to continue working, a situation that will bring about suffering in families.
The West African nation has recorded at least 1,004 cases of COVID-19, 14 related deaths, and 359 recoveries from the virus that has infected over 27,000 people in Africa, according to a report.
The government has imposed a lockdown in the capital city, Abidjan and enforced a nationwide dusk-to-dawn curfew in an effort to combat the disease.
The Ivorian government also adopted 13 measures on March 16, including the closure of all pre-school, primary, junior, and secondary education institutions for a period of 30 days, and a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.
In response to these government measures, Catholic Bishops in Ivory Coast, in a statement issued on March 17, invited “all the people of God to respect them.”
In particular, the pastoral and religious provisions stipulated that Catholic schools and seminaries be closed for a period of 30 days from March 17.
The Bishops have reached to the relevant state authorities to explain “the situation of Catholic schools that came about as a result of COVID-19.”
They did this through an official letter dated April 20.
In order to preserve the production chain and employment, the Ivorian government had, on March 31, announced the establishment of a support fund for the private sector to the tune of 250 billion CFA francs (USD 410,100,000) to support businesses in the informal sector, as well as support for the main sectors of the national economy.
In the face of the challenges occasioned by COVID-19 restrictions, the Prelates have invited the personnel of Catholic education in the country to “show understanding and a spirit of sacrifice in negotiations with their employers.”
They have also encouraged Catholic education personnel to remain at the disposal of their employers for possible professional solicitations.
The Bishops have also expressed their pastoral closeness to the whole Catholic education community in these difficult times.
While showing solidarity with the whole Christian community, the Bishops have invited the people of God in their country to “to unite in prayer for a rapid end to the pandemic” within their borders.
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