Thousands of learners are likely to miss class when the academic year resumes as private schools have been hard hit by the Covid-19 as majority of them may remain shut.
It is anticipated that parents will have to find alternative schools for their children as most private schools have run out of money due to prolonged closure of the institutions. The eight-month closure is projected to destroy careers and have a huge impact on families.
Education providers foresee that even those private schools that will manage to resume studies, will face challenges like limited classrooms, financial constraints, and compromised quality education they were known for before the closure of schools.
Rwanda Today has learned that the Ministry of Education has informed all the schools to be aware that when schools open, classrooms will only accommodate half the numbers they used to have before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
This will be in line with ensuring social distancing measures are maintained in schools to prevent spread of coronavirus.
A mini-survey by Rwanda Today of 12 secondary and primary schools and three universities found that seven out the twelve will postpone opening even after schools are allowed to reopen by the government.
The last four months have been challenging for private schools as they have been starved of their main source of income (fees) and their situation is expected to worsen in the coming months.
Directors of the schools told Rwanda Today that they plan to take up bank loans to meet operational expenses once learning commences but obviously, not before government sets out post-Covid-19 operational guidelines.
“We cannot request for loans before knowing the actual dates of reopening. We will refer to the guidelines that are in place to decide on how much capital our school needs to start,” said Patrick Gatungo, Director of Finance at Authentic International Academy in Kigali.
“The greatest challenge we are likely to face when schools reopen is limited classrooms because schools must ensure social distancing in classes where a desk of three children will be may be used by two or one students,” he said.
The only options are to either reduce the number of students to be admitted, or construct new classrooms. And that is a difficult option for many due to financial constraints.
“Parents who owe the institutions millions of francs are withholding payments in a wait-and-see game due to the pandemic while others have already lost their jobs,” said Mr Gatungo.
Many students are likely to drop out next year after failing to shift to expensive new schools that will reopen. This will also be due to parents’ inability to pay fees or finding a vacancy in public schools, as some wait for their former school to resume lessons,” said Gatungo
“I have decided that my children will not go back to school next year and wait until 2022 when my business stabilizes because I do not have money to pay tuition in their current expensive academy,” said Mahoro Moses, a father of four.
“I am required to pay Rwf750,000 for three children every term but because of the pandemic, I cannot manage to raise the same money this year and probably next year. And taking them to public schools would be backsliding them in their studies,” said Mr Mahoro.
“The Covid-19 pandemic came abruptly and we had to close schools. You know we cannot wait for parents to pay us to clear the expenses,” said Mr Alex Mushumba, who is the headmaster of New Life Christian Academy.
“Auxiliary staff of drivers, cooks, cleaners, watchmen, caregivers, and finance staff have lost livelihoods as their services are no longer required with learners.