With only a week or two remaining for schools to open, this period comes with anxiety to both students and parents. However, the situation can be ameliorated if parents, teachers, schools and students start preparing early enough to avoid last minute preparations. Education Times’ Lydia Atieno explores ways on how best to prepare for a new academic year after a long holiday.
Why early preparation is the key
Isaac Munyakazi, the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, says though students are in holiday mood with many putting books away, this is the right time to start preparing for school again.
He notes that for those waiting to join high school, they should be on look out now on the Rwanda Education Board website, to check out the curriculum and what is required of them.
Munyakazi adds that students should not wait for the last days to do this as it can have a negative impact on their overall preparations.
For the parents, Munyakazi says now is the right time to sit with their children and come up with a commitment agreement on the new academic targets for their children. This, he says, should be guided by how the student performed the previous year.
“This is very critical as it helps and motivates a student to work towards achieving what they have agreed upon with their parents. Apart from that, parents should endeavor to avail the materials needed to transform these targets into reality,” he says.
For schools, the Minister says they are obliged to follow the school calendar, and prepare adequately to receive students before opening day. This, he says, should be done by ensuring that a school has all the equipment and other fundamental items needed by the learners and all staff.
Peter Gasinzigwa, who heads the examination items bank at Rwanda Education Board (REB), says around this time, teachers ought to ensure that they have timetables and schemes of work for their respective classes.
He explains that this helps them to start the new term in an organised manner, which boosts overall performance.
Gasinzigwa adds that parents, on the other hand, should be prepared, and especially those with students joining secondary schools.
He urges all students to report back to school on the opening day so that they don’t miss out any important aspects as they kick in a new academic year.
Gasinzigwa says it is a good idea for parents to accompany their children to school in case they fail to report on the first day so that they explain to the school administration the reason behind that.
What to work on to put students in learning mood
Claudine Nzitabakuza, the head of Teacher Education Management and Professionalisation Department at REB, believes that schools should be at the forefront of putting in place a learning environment, which has a positive social and education impact on every student.
This readiness on the part of schools helps students while in or outside the classroom to explore the diversity in their talents.
“Students come from different backgrounds, but through inclusive planning, they learn to listen to each other, work together as a team as well as develop strong interpersonal skills,” he says.
Nzitabakuza says when schools plan well, it helps students to easily get over their holiday experiences and concentrate on school work.
John Nzayisenge, the director, Good Harvest School in Kigali, feels that cleanliness within the school surroundings can impact the general learning environment, and as such should be maintained.
When students are in a clean and conducive environment, Nzayisenge says it boosts the learning experience and achievement as well. He points out that crowded classrooms and dirt environments affects the learning process as this irritates learners and is a potential health threat.
“These challenges are more common during the first weeks after opening schools. Schools should prepare early enough to boost the learners’ mood as they start a new term,” he says.
For Grace Murengerantwali, a mentor and parent, says building a good relationship with students is important as it helps maintain a supportive environment that encourages learning.
Without this, she says a student may develop anxiety or become homesick because they don’t find support from their teachers. She adds that this not only affects their performance, but can also impact their behaviour negatively.
Murengerantwali, however, notes that teachers should be in a position to build a positive learning environment. This will help learners to achieve their set goals for the new term because such practices promote problem-solving and good decision-making thus improving performance in general.
“When students are heading back to school, especially at the beginning of the year, parents always expect a lot from them. This can only be achieved through teachers working on areas that were not well-handled in the previous academic year,” she says.
On the other hand, Nzitabakuza feels that just like parents at home, teachers should adopt a code of conduct different that will motivate learners to do their best.
“With this, students will be able to adjust and learn the new rules, which prepares them to have positive expectations different from the ones they had the previous year. Again, most learners expect to find new things which motivate and make them eager to learn,” he adds.
He also notes that parents should as well ensure that their children have all the scholastic materials for the new academic year. This is important as a learner will not be stressed about missing some items or classes due to lack of materials needed to learn.
Why students need adequate preparation
According to Nzayisenge, as much as students tend to enjoy holidays, this grace period tends to have a negative impact socially as well as physiologically when time comes to adjust to the school environment.
He notes that some students hail from families with divorced parents which can affect their learning while at school. He says this can be handled if such students get mentors or counselors to talk to and share what they are going through.
“When counselled, they can be able to find better ways of handling the problem at hand. Teachers should also work hand-in-hand with parents or guardians to ensure that learners get all the support needed to face such challenges,” he says.
John Muhoza, a father of three teenagers, is of view that in the first week of the school opening, teachers should closely scrutinise students’ behavior to ensure a good start.
He says in cases where students have to travel long distances to school, parents should provide means for their children to reach school in good time as this helps them prepare to set off to school at the right time.