As students resume classes this week, some changes were made by the Ministry of Education. For instance, at primary level, students will have to study eight hours per day yet previously, under the double shift system, they studied for only six hours. Education Times’ Lydia Atieno takes a look at how this adjusment will be beneficial to students, teachers and parents.
The announcement made by the Ministry read that the change was to be put in place effective January, at the beginning of the academic year. This will reduce the number of primary pupils who were studying in shifts as they will start attending the whole day.
The system of studying in shifts was introduced in 2009 due to lack of enough classrooms and too many pupils studying the whole day. Also, there was a shortage in teachers and the few who were available could not cover the number of pupils.
In December last year, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said that the system of studying in shifts was affecting the quality of education.
“In primary school, some pupils were studying for four hours in the morning because they were too many in the classroom. This affected the quality of education in general,” he said.
Following the declaration, the State Minister in charge of primary and secondary school, Isaac Munyakazi, said that the move will start with primary six pupils and continue down to those in lower classes as the financial aspect to build more classrooms was gradually met.
“Studying for four hours per day is not in line with international standards. Those hours are not enough and therefore affect the quality of education. Even teachers get tired because they rest for only one hour before continuing with classes in the afternoon. And this affects their delivery and could lead to skipping of classes,” Munyakazi said.
He added that this initiative needed an increase in budget, to build more classrooms and help pupils study the whole day.
Munyakazi notes that with the phasing out of the old system, two classrooms will be built which means that two more teachers will be hired per location.
While presenting the seven year programme, the Prime Minister revealed that the government is going to build 28,635 classrooms and recruit 18,016 primary teachers.
How prepared are the schools?
When I visited GS Kimisigara School on Monday, P6 teachers were busy working on their timetables, not just for the term, but also making adjustments regarding the abolition of the double shift system.
Julienne Uwezabe, a P6 science teacher at the school, says that they have embraced the move wholeheartedly as it’s more advantageous than before.
“This is a positive move by the Ministry and I applaud it. For teachers, parents and students, we are all going to benefit,” she says.
For the learners, Uwezabe says the system will allow them to have ample time to study, as well as revise their work well.
Another important aspect, she points out, is that with the old learning system, teachers had a problem with some students who did not show up when it was their turn and ended up spending time on streets.
“The problem was especially with those who learned in the afternoon, some of them would lie to their parents that they were going to school but never did so. It was also easier for them to convince their parents that they had lessons in the morning or afternoon when they didn’t,” she says.
No more double work
Emmy Ntigurirwa, a teacher at GS Ruramba, Marie Reine, says that with the old system, it was hard to handle students, especially because of the number. They had to teach them as one class, whereas from now on, one class will be divided into two, making it easier for a teacher to handle the students.
“When a class has a big number of students, it’s hard for a teacher to handle all areas, including discipline. This, in one way or another, could lead to a high rate of indiscipline as well as poor academic performance,” Ntigurirwa says.
Valens Rukundo, an English teacher at GS Kimisagara, says that teachers will have enough time to cover all the content, something that was difficult before.
Rukundo says that just like parents, teachers also need enough time with the students. He explains that this is important because as a teacher, one gets to know the students well in regarding health, performance as well as challenges, which is important for the success of any student.
He adds that through this, a teacher will ensure the overall performance of the students, and with the new system, they are guaranteed to achieve that.
“As teachers, we also had a problem of completing the curriculum within a short period of time. We had to handle the same class twice, and it was consuming a lot of time because the same topic was handled in the morning and afternoon with other students,” he says.
Annonciata Dusabeyezu, a parent from Karambe Village in Kigali, says that four of her eight children passed through the system of learning in shifts. She says that as a parent, she wasn’t comfortable with it; but she had no choice because it was compulsory for students in primary to do that.
She explains that parents who have a busy schedule and depend on the house helps to take care of their children will benefit too as it’s better if a child spends more time at school than at home.
Dusabeyezu adds that when away from children, it’s hard to know what they are up to, but with the new system, most time will be spent at school. This, she says, prevents them from indulging in indiscipline or just being idle.
She adds that it was also hard for students to study at home, even with the help of parents.
Johhstone Kalisa, a father of three, feels that working in the afternoon is sometimes hectic and tiresome; the same applies to students who had to attend classes from 2pm.
He says the best time for students to learn and understand what they are being taught is in the morning. He adds that this was also a challenge for teachers, but all that will change now.
Kalisa points out that there are students who stay far away from the school, so staying at school the whole day can be a challenge for them. He explains that the child will be required to go home for lunch for those schools that don’t offer lunch, and then make it back to study.
He says to solve that issue; parents should make an effort to pack food for their children, if the schools they attend are far away.
With the new move, Magrete Mutoni, a parent from Kabuga, says parents should be more careful with their children as some might lie about going to school yet they don’t get there.
She explains that this is because they will have to spend the whole day at school, making a parent believe that they are in school yet they are not. Before, she says, a parent was to expect their child back either at lunch time or, they would go to school in the afternoon, which seemed easier.
She, however, adds that teachers should work with parents and ensure that this doesn’t happen by carrying out attendance rollcalls every morning and evening. Here, it’s easier to reach out to parents in the case of absenteeism.
For children who come from vulnerable families, Faustin Mutabazi, a parent and the chief executive officer at Educational Consultancy Bureau, says that parents might find the changes hard because some of them were using their children to do some work for them.
“Parents who are trying to make ends meet and can’t afford house helps use their children to handle other responsibilities. This move will affect them though it’s a relief for children,” he says.
Mutabazi adds that this was also affecting students as most of the time; they spent their time doing domestic work instead of reading, which led to poor performance at school.