Mad rush to complete classrooms as schools grapple with shortages

Jean de la Mennais school in Burera District. Emmanuel Kwizera.

The Ministry of Education has said that activities to construct new classrooms are being accelerated so as to reduce overcrowding of students in classes.

Many schools complain of a shortage of classrooms, which means that some students learn under difficult conditions.

Isaac Munyakazi, the State Minister in charge of Primary and Secondary Schools, told Saturday Times, that some contracted companies had delayed their activities, adding that they are now on track to complete.

Before starting the 2019 academic year, over 1,776 new classrooms were supposed to be available, he said.

“Some were not completed on time due to the delay of imported construction materials while other contracted companies stalled their activities. This affected some schools in terms of expected classrooms. We are closely following up so that they are completed within two weeks,” he said.

He, however, said the classrooms are not enough.

For instance, Rubavu District needs at least 300 new classrooms but only 125 are expected to be built due to limited budget as observed during the recent quality education enhancement awareness campaign across the country.

“We still have an issue of few classrooms and students who walk long distances to reach school. We are also working with development partners such as churches who temporarily lend us some rooms for students in case there is a shortage.

We have to allocate a budget every year to construct new classrooms and renovate the old ones as students increase while the school dropouts return to school,” he said.

Schools speak out

Several public schools across the country are facing the same issue of classroom shortage saying that they received more students than expected.

Sources who spoke to  Saturday Times said that they had to seek alternatives to accommodate a number of students.

Students are studying under difficult conditions, they said.

“We got so many students and had to use part of food stores and staff rooms to get where the students could sit. Some sit on the floor because there are so many students but few desks,” said Gratien Iyakaremye, a teacher at GS Murama in Nyabihu District.

Dominique Bihozagara, the Head Teacher at GS Rugando in Gasabo District, said that at the beginning of the academic year they had started to send back a number of newly admitted students due to shortage of classrooms but later reconsidered.

“We later changed the decision to send them back to avoid school drop-outs and allowed them to occupy spaces reserved for other purposes,” he said.

Teachers said that some classrooms accommodate over 60 students yet only 46 are the maximum recommended. Some head teachers say single shift programme has also triggered a shortage of space.

“Currently students from primary five and six are studying under single shift programme when they previously used to study under double shift programme. We have now borrowed part of the ADEPR church to help us. We need at least six more classrooms,” said Jean-Paul Bihobe, Head Teacher of GS Nyankurazo in Kirehe District.