Schools across the country attempting to make up for the lost learning time due to pandemic induced closures have decried financial and logistical challenges as a challenge to offering holidays package.
Rwanda Today has learnt that while a section of the schools moved to squeeze the timetable to maximise the time including cutting co-curricular activities and organising evening and weekend remedial classes to help learners catch up, it was still individual arrangements marred by several challenges.
Educationists, for instance, say the exact toll of the school closures on individual learner levels was still unclear due to the lack of systematic evaluation mechanism that could serve as a basis in designing and tracking success or failure of catch up programmes by schools across the country.
Individual schools, however, indicate that for section of learners identified as lagging behind to get back on track, and ensure those in final primary and secondary classes fully cover the programme ahead of national exams, it would require extension of daily learning time, and carrying on teaching during holidays.
This therefore imposed budgetary costs many public and state-aided schools now say call for extra funding either by government or parents.
“The main challenge has been to get teachers motivated to work extra time and during holidays. In our case, they have refused unless we are in a position to provide bonus, and that’s their right under the special statute governing the profession,” one of the head teachers intimated to Rwanda Today asking for anonymity to talk freely.
“If we admit that we have a learning gap to address, if we agree that some learners need remedial classes to catch up, the ministry of education needs to come up with clear rules and regulations of how this ought to be done and devise means to fund its implementation.”
A few schools have designed catch up progarmmes and went ahead with implementation with support from parents, but this was limited to learners in final classes namely P6, S3, S6 due to funding shortage. Educationists, however, warn that charging additional fees could worsen the pandemic-induced drop out problem considering that learners lagging behind are from disadvantaged families who had limited or no access to digital learning platforms deployed by government and stakeholders.
“We are of the view that education institutions should devise ways to raise funding for the catch up programmes.
The budget to address effects of Covid-19 in education should serve this purpose, thereby allowing each school a basket for the catch up scheme,” said Benson Rukabu, coordinator at Rwanda Education for all Coalition (REFAC), a platform of local Civil Society Organizations promoting quality basic education for all. Rwanda Basic education Board (REB) officials did not respond to schools’ concerns around funding, and the challenges making up for the lost learning time and progress due to the pandemic.
Figures by individual academies suggest that each counted hundreds of learners in need of remedial classes to catch up after teachers’ evaluations found them falling behind.
“For now one would say that it up to individual teachers or schools to arrange own ways to work on levels of affected learners. It creates a disparity in ways catch up programmes are conducted and it makes it tell whether the efforts are a success or a failure,” said Alexis Mupenzi, former head teacher at GS Nyakanyinya in Nyamasheke District who currently teaches at Petit Seminaire St Aloys.
“The effect this is going to have is the disparity in learning outcomes that reflect when it comes to subjecting learners to similar evaluation in national examinations while they did not learn under similar condition,” he added.