Virus raids parents pockets, leave classrooms empty

Monday November 30 2020

Poor families says they lost income and are unable to afford schools fees and learning materials to keep children in schools. PHOTO | FILE


Vulnerable families have raised concern over losing sources of livelihood which has made it difficult to raise school fees.

Those who spoke to Rwanda Today, say they cannot afford to pay school fees, as a result their children may drop out of school.

Ancilla Mukeshimana, a mother of five, a resident of Kabutare Village of Kabuga is constrained to worry about her children’s education even though learning materials, uniforms and subsidized school fees is all she needed to get them back to class.

Since learning resumed on November 2, the former local market vendor who lost everything to the pandemic and has been unable to raise capital to return to business or engage in other income generating activity, is worried more about seeing families go hungry.

“Sending them back to school as we stand today won’t be possible. My concern is how and where to get their next meal, and sometimes it becomes hard. Most days they go to bed hungry,” she told Rwanda Today.

Her concerns are shared by many vulnerable families and those who lost livelihoods to the pandemic like Theoneste Harerimana, commercial cyclist. His family of four children — two in school and one attaining school age this year — relied on occasional food donations by government and well-wishers that only lasted for as long as the April-May lockdown.


Call for urgent intervention

According to Rwanda Education for all Coalition (REFAC), a platform of local Civil Society Organisations involved in the promotion of quality basic education for all, children from families reeling from the pandemic’s socio-economic hardships are just a fraction of many at risk of dropping out of school across the country without urgent interventions.

The analysis by the coalition indicate that a much bigger number of school dropouts is linked to spikes in teenage pregnancies, child labour cases, domestic work and increase in street children, among other factors instigated by the pandemic.

“From our assessment, it calls for strategies beyond the normal sensitization campaigns, especially devising support programs tailored for targeted children and their families,” said Benson Rukabu, REFAC coordinator.

“For instance, we are suggesting that let contributions, school fees, uniforms or other usual requisites not be a barrier for any children coming back to school. The pandemic hit hard families and from our analysis costs are a hindrance to attempts to trace and return learners from wherever harsh living conditions took them. We feel that the government needs to devise interventions in this regard.”

Apart from reports by individual districts and civil society organisations pointing to spikes in numbers of children who were victims of vices such as pregnancies, child labour, and those who end up on the streets, there are no general figures to show the full extent this had on school turn up in schools.

But already schools that reopened since November 2 across the country reported a significant number of their learners missing weeks later, prompting fears of yet an upsurge in dropout rates.