The August 2016 Monitoring and Evaluation report on private science schools showed that only 3049 male students and 3276 female were undertaking sciences combinations is secondary schools. The same report indicated that only 19 (27.1 per cent) of schools surveyed had laboratories while 51 (72.8%) did not.
The secondary schools curriculum stipulates that students require basic knowledge of the practical aspect of science subjects like physics; biology, computer studies and chemistry to enable them pursue science-related disciplines at higher institutions of learning.
Experts contend that unlike in the Arts and Humanities where a student does not necessarily need to prove facts with experimentation, ‘Practicals’ are indispensable for teaching Science subjects as they can stimulate and challenge learners mentally and physically in ways theoretical learning cannot do.
Alain Munyaburanga, a teacher notes that practical application of knowledge is very important for science subject teaching especially in secondary schools, to boost performance and equip learners with skills relevant to the job market.
Laboratory procedures and techniques, fieldwork and development of practical skills help to shape students’ understanding of scientific concepts and phenomena.
In addition, teacher demonstrations, experiencing phenomena, designing and planning investigations, analyzing results, and data analysis are also essential to students in science.
However, Munyaburanga says that despite its importance, the practical aspect of science subjects is not always taught in secondary schools as some teachers don’t even have knowledge on the use of the various apparatuses in laboratories.
“You cannot give what you don’t have. It is unfortunate that sometimes even the teachers of our students have inadequate knowledge on the use of laboratory equipment,” he said.
Camille Ntawuhiganayo, a 12 year basic education (12YBE) teacher at GS Kicukiro points to lack of the necessary materials for ‘Practicals’ as another challenge affecting schools.
“Although students may want to benefit from the practical way of learning, they are often forced to spend more time studying theory and reading books because the schools lack basic laboratory equipment,” he said.
James Mbarushimana, a teacher at GS Nyagasozi, a public school located in Nyanza, Huye affirms that many12YBE students don’t do sufficient ‘Practicals’ in science subjects due to limited materials .
He reveals that over the past five years, students’ performance of Science subjects has declined in the school in which he teaches.
“Our students pass other subjects like History and Geography but don’t perform as well in Physics and Chemistry,” he says, a phenomenon he attributes in large part to lack of lab materials.
Resolving the issues
There is hope, though. According to Uwayo Jephthah, a Legal Advisor at the Rwanda Education Board, as many schemes are being initiated by the Ministry of Education to solve the issue.
“We have more and more skilled teachers coming out of the recognized universities like Kigali Institute of Education and other educational colleges. These are helping to fill the existing gaps with regards to use of laboratory equipment,” he explained.
Flora Mutezigaju, professional in monitoring and evaluation in Mineduc, stresses that whereas government has a responsibility to support the education system; parents too have to play their role in supporting their children’s education.
“Some parents deliberately don’t purchase scholastic materials or other apparatus for their children, not because they cannot afford it, but because they think it is not their responsibility,” she says.
“Therefore, when they are told to buy relatively cheap equipment like gloves, they complain even about such small amounts. I think they should be more co-operative with schools,” she says.