The Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect every aspect of our lives. The school closures have laid bare the inequalities in education system and in roles played by schools.
Now, many parents and guardians are facing the risk of school fees more than doubling in the new academic year as school owners envisage higher operating costs due to the prolonged closure unless the government intervenes to subside the costs.
This is in addition to additional costs associated with implementing safety guidelines to facilitate schools to reopen.
While a definite date has not been set for school reopening, entrepreneurs in the education sector told Rwanda Today that their operating costs are going up as they try to comply with safety protocols.
Schools have proposed to the government to at least double the allocation per student to Rwf3,360 per school term in the new academic calendar from the existing Rwf1,215. If not, parents will be expected to bridge the funding shortfall.
However, there is concern that many parents have lost a source of livelihood during a pandemic and many families are financially constrained.
It is also clear that the government resources have also come under pressure as it implemented measures to contain the pandemic.
A combination of declining revenues and increased unbudgeted costs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic means that the government’s capacity to adequately address the needs of public and private schools is constrained.
This calls for a multi-stakeholder approach; the government could negotiate with financial institutions to help entrepreneurs access loans which can be paid after an agreed grace period. Banks need to be proactive and design back to school loans’ to help parents who may struggle to pay school fees.
Many teachers working in private schools had their contracts suspended indefinitely, it will be difficult for them to get back to work motivated which may undermine learning outcomes.
Ahead of the school reopening, the focus appears to be on safety and rightly so.
However, it is important to help minimise the financial burden on schools as they were already hanging by the thread.
Failure to access the shot in the arm they urgently need may worsen learning outcomes which were already under scrutiny even before the pandemic.
We hope the prolonged closure of schools has provided an opportunity to education leaders to reassess the existing learning systems to ensure that they are truly relevant and learning outcomes will improve after the crisis.
We know many children from vulnerable homes have missed out on remote learning not only because of limited access to the internet but also economic pressure which sometimes forces parents to assign chores to children making it impossible for them to learn remotely.
Some households simply can not afford a mobile phoneor radio or TV.