Back to school: Early preparation key to academic success


Students doing revision. Getting straight to learning on the first day of school helps set the right mood and pace for the academic term. (Lydia Atieno)

The beginning of the term is always a sensitive period for schools, especially when it comes to ensuring that teachers and students settle in well and prepare adequately for the entire academic year.

During the first few weeks after opening of schools, there tends to be laxity and confusion with lots of activities going on here and there, especially registration of students. However, according to education experts, if all this is not well-handled, teachers end up wasting lots of precious time, which is likely to compromise the overall targets.

Aminadhad Niyonshuti, a teacher at Apaper School in Kicukiro District says although things get easier as the school year progresses, sometimes the start of the school is always the hardest time to manage.

What to do and to avoid

For a smooth sailing, Niyonshuti says teachers should draw an elaborate work-plan of the school activities from the very first day.

“To accomplish the year without lagging behind, everything starts on the first day of school opening. In fact, teachers should use the very day to create, introduce and reinforce their routines that will take them throughout the entire term,” he says.

Niyonshuti further mentions that with these initial preparations, teachers are able to orient students to the new syllabi as well as extra-curricular activities.

As for Paul Oga, the dean of students at Green Hills Academy, Kigali, getting straight to academic work right from the first day of school is as important as far finishing the curriculum on time is concerned.

He notes that the idea of waiting for all the students to arrive before teaching begins should not be encouraged, adding that getting straight to work will minimise the time spent on non-academic work.

“For instance, for us we already have a curriculum to follow which guides us on how to plan well to be able to complete it within the stipulated time. And one of the strategies that helps us to pull off this is starting teaching straight from day one of the school opening,” he says.

Oga explains that for those students who show up at school after few days or a week due to various reasons, they are given remedial lessons or catch up themselves depending on how late they have reported at school.

He adds that parents should be aware of the impact of their children missing classes so that they do everything possible to prepare them early enough to avoid this.

“This is a good strategy that all schools should adopt to make sure they are always a head of time in everything, especially as far as academics are concerned,” he adds.

On the other hand, Jean Bosco Makuza, a parent and member of the school management committee at GS Kimisagara,Kigali,  observes that settling down takes quite some time, which requires schools to plan well ahead of time.

“This can be achieved through proper planning, setting objectives and curriculum mapping,” he says.

Makuza adds that teachers and parents are supposed to set a good example to students. “It all starts with good time management and setting priorities; if this doesn’t happen, students lose direction, which can impact their academics negatively.”

What the ministry says

According to Claudine Nzitabakuze, the head of Teacher Education Management and Professionalisation at Rwanda Education Board (REB), all schools are supposed to start teaching on the very first day the schools open.

He notes that other activities that schools want to carry out should not affect the school academic programme in any way. He notes that from the first day onwards, there should be teaching and nothing else because teachers are supposed to be prepared ahead of the opening day.

Nzitabakuze says because schools always have a lot of non-class activities to do after a long holiday, they can use the time they are free from class work to carry out such activities to avoid comprosing their teaching schedule.

“In case of delay or low turn-up of students during the first days after school opening, teahers could rather use that time to do revision of the past exams with the students who are present,” he notes.

Nzitabakuze also points out that during this time, teachers should focus on working on schemes of work which will guide them on how to go about their business all term.