• June 3rd, 2020

Smiles as school bells will ring and sirens wail again


The announcement this week of the re-opening of schools and return of learners in phases by the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture brought some relief to parents, learners and stakeholders. Soon after the press release to the media, social media platforms were awash with the verbatim release itself and comments, which all pointed to smiles and happiness about the announcement. Some parents, teachers and principals I talked to expressed delight at the news of the reopening of schools in phases. 

There are reasons why different sectors in education are happy schools will be opened soon and learners and teachers will be able to continue with their work. For parents, this is a great relief because the opening of schools means the online teaching burden is taken off their shoulders – at least from those whose children were accessing it. Also, parents who have pre-school children will not need to hire the services of childminders to take care of their children when they go to work. After all, online teaching was not meaningful to these young children who learn better with the teacher in face-to-face interactions. Some learners had not been able to access online or remote teaching because their parents could not afford to buy electronic gadgets or there was no connectivity to facilitate this mode of learning. It is a fact that for most learners in rural areas online learning was impracticable and impossible. Parents and learners in this category welcomed the news of the reopening of schools as this is the only way the learners will receive education. 

Teachers and principals have welcomed the reopening of schools too as this means that they will resume their duties of educating the nation. Although educators in public schools received their full salaries during the lockdown, it was not the same for their counterparts in some private schools. Some private schools failed to meet their financial obligations because they rely solely on school fees paid by parents and guardians. Despite the fact that some private schools provided online learning, some parents did not honour their obligations of paying fees. This had a ripple effect since the meagre financial resources in these schools were not adequate for salary bills, electricity, rentals, creditors and other financial commitments. Consequently, the reopening of schools is a great relief to the private sector in education since parents’ and guardians’ fees are their only source of revenue, especially those schools which do not receive a government subsidy.  The responsible authorities in private schools who were open to me revealed that operations at their schools were severely affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, adding that it will take the time to recover financially.

The staggered reopening of schools has been lauded since opening all grades at once might swarm schools and aggravate the health situation. The different phases of the reopening of schools will give stakeholders time to assess and monitor the situation and take remedial action in if need be. What remains to be seen is how all schools will prepare for the return of learners in phases. School responsible authorities must be sure that all facilities at their schools are safe for the return of learners. Some schools have been in the local media even before the advent of Covid-19 pandemic because of poor sanitation and dilapidating infrastructure. We have witnessed learners’ hostels in some sorry state. To reopen schools with hostels in this state will not be in the best interest of learners. Also, overcrowding is another big challenge for schools, especially government schools where you find fifty learners in a class in some schools. It would be advisable to reduce all classes to thirty learners and employ more teachers. Stakeholders must start working now for the reopening of schools; there is no time to waste. It is advisable that there must be regular inspections in all schools to safeguard the safety of learners, teachers and other 
workers.

In conclusion, education ministries must be highly commended for their interventions during the Covid-19 lockdown period. The introduction of online teaching made a positive impact on learners and higher education students, at least where there were connectivity and equipment. With the implementation of online teaching, the reopening of schools, colleges and universities – and remedial learning planned for those who missed online teaching, as I see it, there is no need to extend the academic year to 2021. All learners should be promoted to the next grade next year and those higher education students who fulfilled online assessments should be allowed to move to the next semester. From an education perspective, we must be honest and say that some damage has been made in the education sector. I want to say that, as I see it, the damage is minimal and it can be addressed. I base my premise of the experience that I experience during wars of liberation when learners’ education was disrupted during the greatest part of the year, but they still managed to go on to the next grade and succeeded in their studies.

So, the eerie atmosphere current at all institutions will be a thing of the past.  Soon schools, college and universities will be bustling with life. Everyone should play their part in ensuring that the smiles keep shining on all the faces of learners, parents, students and staff. 
 


Staff Reporter
2020-05-22 10:23:16 | 12 days ago

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