When the first Covid-19 case was detected in mid-March, schools were among the first to be affected: They were ordered closed in order to increase the social distancing necessary to cope up with the situation, which was followed by the full lockdown on the March 21.
Out of the Cabinet Meeting of April 30 that considered new measures to respond to Covid-19, schools will remain closed until September. Perhaps this is the right time to legalise homeschooling to enhance social distancing, which is the main measure to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Homeschooling is a way of educating a child outside the formal school environment. In Rwanda education is governed by laws which do not recognise homeschools.
In fact, the law provides sanctions against parents who do not send their children to school at the required age. But, on the other hand, it seems that Covid-19 pandemic would last for an unknown period, meaning social distancing would be needed for many months or even years.
One of the ways to enhance social distancing would be homeschooling even if it may be challenging for many parents as it requires enough time to be with the child and assist her/him with lessons; it is costly considering that in public schools education is free or cheaper while homeschooling would require parents to purchase curriculum and teaching tools and materials, funding field trips on their own and/ or sometimes use paid homeschooling programmes.
Homeschooling may limit children from socialising while facilities can also be a challenge because it is difficult to equip homes to be used as regular school facilities especially for classes which require practical experiments such as physics and chemistry because it can be hard to get all the relevant chemicals, materials, and apparatus.
It may also be hard for parents to transition from parents to tutors in the child’s mind. One cannot forget that many parents are not adequately educated to homeschool their children or they were educated in a different, if not outdated, system compared with the current systems.
Even if homeschooling may be challenging, it also has a number of advantages: Homeschooling is a way of teaching children at their convenient time and own pace as children do not have the same mental and physical strengths, attention, etc. and some children have mental or physical disabilities which require special attention in many areas.
Indeed, homeschooling is the best way a parent can impart certain values to their children while counteracting negative influences.
It is a way of protecting children from child abuses from ill-mannered staff or fellow students at regular schools; In addition to the above, as many jobs are being lost due to the economic recession caused by Covid-19, homeschooling would be a creative way of job creation because many parents who would go with homeschooling would need to engage at some extent tutors/educators and or subscribe to home schooling programmes which employ them.
It would also boost creativity and technology in education sector because education operators would rush to put in place homeschooling solutions. Thus, today would be the right time to consider legalisation of homeschooling or making it an official system in Rwanda.
Jean Nepomuscene Mugengangabo is a corporate commercial lawyer, and a partner at Landmark Advocates, Kigali-Rwanda