School heads warn of space challenge ahead of re-opening

Tuesday July 7 2020

students

Secondary students board buses for their homes after all schools were shut down due to the outbreak of coronavirus in the country. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Learning institutions have raised alarm over inadequate facilities to accommodate all learners when they resume classes in September.

Managers of private and state-sponsored schools with inadequate infrastructure and public schools not covered by the ongoing classroom expansion programme indicated that they would not receive any additional learners until 2022.

Most schools have been receiving hundreds of new entrants in grade one of primary, with enrollment rate reaching over 100 per cent each year, but this will not be the case without additional facilities.

It was understood that despite the ongoing construction of additional classrooms, the facilities are unevenly distributed as they were designed to tackle already existing overcrowding in selected areas of the country.

Rwanda Today learnt that Ministry of Education and local officials had deployed teachers to map out all children who have attained or may have surpassed the official age of joining primary school, their location and intended schools across the country.

Ministry of Education did not respond to our questions regarding the exercise, but sources indicated that data were urgent to guide planning for the new school calendar.

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However, school managers now want the government to use the data to draw appropriate plan of handling thousands of children aged six and above who had not joined primary school in respective communities by the time the covid-19 pandemic disrupted learning.

“We are doing parents’ sensitization already; we are referring them to other schools in the area where new classrooms are being added, including those planned in new sites. They have to bear with us and give up their preferences because we are managing the crisis,” said Jean de Dieu Kwizera, head of GS Bumbogo, one of the affected schools.

Schools like GS Nzove in Nyarugenge district, which has been receiving between 540 and 620 new entrants in primary one each year, is now left with no space for additional learners because the covid-19 pandemic hampered class progression.

Its head teacher Andre Nsengiyumva told Rwanda Today that some of the added classrooms were in line with addressing the already existing overcrowding as well as enabling the school vacate pupils from a section of the existing dilapidated classrooms located in an area deemed disaster risk.

“This is the time we were also expected to phase out double shift starting with primary four; it will only work if all new children are sent to other schools. We hoped to get 16 additional classrooms but this was not possible because we had limitations in finding land space,” he said.

According to the education regulator, schools which were almost ending term one, and have remained shut for the remainder of the school period, will all have to restart the year.

Official data indicate that over 22,505 new classrooms will be added, equipped and staffed nationwide as part of the programme to reduce the high teach to student ratio and cut distance covered by students to schools.

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