As new academic year begins, how ready are students, schools?

Students of Kagarama Secondary School sit an exam on the first day of the 2020 academic year, which kicked off yesterday. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.

On Monday, January 6, pre-primary, primary and secondary schools reopened for the new academic year 2020/21.

You could easily notice students in school uniform on Kigali roads either with luggage heading to boarding schools even as many boarding students had reported during the weekend.

The New Times visited different schools in Kigali to capture their preparedness for the 38-week-long academic year. Visited schools recorded an “impressive number” of early turn-up.

“Most students met the deadline for reporting to school which was on Sunday and by Tuesday we expect to have a full number of students,” said Innocent Bigiyobyenda, the Dean of Studies at Kagarama Secondary School in Kicukiro District.

Many boarding students who had missed the deadline were found on a long queue at the school administration block to give an explanation for their missing of the Sunday deadline to report.

The latecomers who talked to The New Times brought up financial issues and switching schools as the main reasons they delayed by a day to report.

Students sit practical test on the first day of the 2020/2021 academic year at Kagarama Secondary School yesterday. Photo: Dan Nsengiyumva.

“I am still in the process of switching schools because my initial school is too far from home. I have missed the classes but once I am admitted, I will join the others,” said Hervin Rwema who wants to join Kagarama Secondary school.

By the time he was waiting for admission, Beginning of Term Exams (BTEs) were going on, being done by 500 out of slightly over 600 students who are expected by the school.

“BTEs help in evaluating and readying students for the new term. They help determine whether the holiday was not misused. They are useful to students,” Patience Umwali who just started secondary 5 testifies.

Challenges ravel

Patrick Ishimwe is a 15-year-old secondary student. As the new academic year kicks off, Ishimwe longs for more qualified school to prepare him for national exams in a year to come.

So he says this is the reason he is leaving his school located in Rwamagana district to one in Kigali.

Having never been able to access or use a computer, Ishimwe is joining a school in capital Kigali in hopes that facilities are a bit more improved.

Unfortunately, at Groupe Scolaire Remera Protestant, his new school, there is only one smart classroom that is supposed to be used by over 1,000 students excluding primary school.

Ishimwe sees this as challenge but hopes to use the little access he has optimally.

“I am so curious about what I can do with a computer. I was hoping that I would get more access to it if I move to a school in Kigali,” he says.

Ishimwe’s concerns are shared by many more students who resumed school on Monday.

The new Competence Based Curriculum compels students to contribute 70 percent to their studies. With limited access to computers and libraries to help students in research, teachers have no option but to contribute more.

“One small library and 50 computers for over 1,000 students is worse than less. Students still overly depend on teachers but we have hope that the issue will unhook in years to come,” Edouard Nkulikiyumukiza, Headmaster of G.S Remera Protestant.

Not only G.S Remera that struggles with resources. Teta Iris Credo, a national exam candidate at Kagarama Secondary School, recounts how she uses the school’s small library.

“Each class have specific hours for library. You cannot use it if occupied by other classes. I would say I acquire 25 percent from the library (instead of the targeted 70 percent) which might be less for non-candidate students,” she says.

Overcrowding in classes also came among mentioned challenges. Headmaster Nkulikiyumukiza said that his school still struggles with students overcrowding in classes. The smallest classroom has 50 children while some classes accommodate over 70 children.

Since Friday, January 3, students were heading to school and studies resumed on Monday, according to 2020 academic year calendar. Meanwhile, Those who sat national exams, whose results came out last week, will start school January 13.

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