This is indeed July 2009 and by tomorrow most schools will be closing off for holidays. The papers are likely to be filled with stories and pictures of students returning home and commentaries on how they should conduct themselves during the one month break.
What is not likely to appear in the press though is the struggle that some of the teachers have just endured in order to produce report cards for their students to present to parents and guardians.
Well this is not supposed to be much of a problem since teachers do this kind of work all the time and therefore it should not be a mere routine.
As a teacher, I can authoritatively inform you that this is quite an energy consuming task that involves not just compiling marks but also finding out why some of the students lack them – reasons as to why they missed an exam for instance.
The second issue could be the fact that quite a number of schools have not really embraced the concept of using computers in their work (ICT). It is not shocking enough to find that in many schools, computers that were acquired from the government, well wishers or purchased by the school are no longer in working condition.
In some cases, you will find that the few computers are preserved for the school accountant, the secretary and may be the school Head Teacher – even though he/she cannot use the machine. It ends up placed in front of him to impress visitors who come to the school.
So when the time comes for teachers to make report cards, everything is entered manually. In this era of computers which make almost all tasks easier, it becomes really a sad sight to see a teacher struggling to add up marks and calculate average percentage then award positions to students. Remember not all teachers are good at mathematics.
The teacher’s desk in this situation is often not complete without items like white wash, a borrowed calculator, ruler, students’ scripts, and lots of rough papers among others. One small mistake can lead to a cumulative error for the whole class and such moments bring teachers near to tears as they still have to correct and redo everything manually.
In some schools the teacher even has to painfully enter students’ marks with two different pens; a blue pen for marks above average and a red one for marks below average. This only serves to raise the chances of making mistakes.
Fellow teachers and policy makers, this is 2009 for crying out loud. Primary school pupils are being equipped with laptops, one can access the internet off their mobile phones, and the city is being dug up in anticipation of cheap broadband internet, with undersea cables meant to save the East African region from ignorance.
Why on earth are we, the fountains of knowledge and trainers of tomorrow’s leaders not on this ICT band wagon yet?
Why do we have to always do things manually yet the technology that is at our door steps is ready to save us from all these troubles?
What does it really take to have a school installing software on some of their computers where teachers can periodically enter results from tests and exams and then simply print out report cards?
With such a system in place, even the chronic problem of students forging report cards will be addressed. They could be printed in colour with the school’s logo and other forge proof marks.
It’s time for the Ministry of Education to front this as a directive. No more manual production of students’ report cards.
Here is a free business tip to all of you IT fellows. Design software for this task and sell it to schools in Rwanda. You do not have to remember me when you find yourself smiling all the way to the bank.