School begins in the usual disappointing way

Primary and secondary schools all across Rwanda re-opened for the third and last term of the school calendar. I have witnessed this whole event so many times that writing about it makes me feel a little lazy. I feared that it would seem like I had a beginning of term template that I keep using with a few changes here and there.

Primary and secondary schools all across Rwanda re-opened for the third and last term of the school calendar. I have witnessed this whole event so many times that writing about it makes me feel a little lazy. I feared that it would seem like I had a beginning of term template that I keep using with a few changes here and there.

However, I eventually found enough reason not to feel guilty about doing this again. On Monday at around 2:00 p.m, I got a call from a friend who is also a parent.

He had just dropped off a child at a secondary school in Gasabo District, Kigali. He was shocked by what he had seen.

According to him, there were hardly any students at the school. He was so shocked that he felt the need to find out from the school headmaster whether there had been any problem.

Apparently, he had never before had to drop his child off at school on the first day. The response he got from the headmaster was a simple, “I don’t know.”

So he called me to register his shock and disgust. I patiently listened as he argued that this was unacceptable and that it considerably devalues the government’s plan of creating a knowledge-based economy.

“How are we going to have a knowledge-based society when no seriousness is attached to things like reporting to school?”

He went ahead to suggest that tests be set and given at the beginning of the term so as to get students to report to school on time and to even do some revision during the holiday.

I could not agree with him more. This behaviour seems to be growing into a negative custom of sorts.

Last week, I received a call from one of my former students (now in another school) and when I asked him about the third term and returning to school, he casually told me that he would not be heading to school on the first day but probably on Wednesday. He gave no reason for this.

It is this kind of attitude that needs to be addressed.

Students should report on time and those who fail to do so should have good reason.

These delays often affect students who may find that their colleagues have already covered a lot academically.

In some cases it affects the teacher who feels compelled to wait for a critical mass of students before he/she can teach. You then have some teachers extending their holidays with the excuse that ‘there is not much teaching to do in the first week.’

Surprisingly, there were also reports of several students being stranded after failing to find transport means to school.

Transport stakeholders met last week and agreed not to hike transport fees as students returned to school. It seems they only solved part of the problem.

The bigger problem seemed to be the scarcity of transport means. This is the time for the Government to seek solutions to this problem probably by designating some Onatracom buses for school destinations in order to ease some of the pressure on the existing public transport.

So we have two crises to deal with as far as the opening of school is concerned. Those who report on the first day have to endure standing for long hours and then fighting to get public transport.

While all this is going on, we have another group of laggards who do not seem to see why they should report to school on the first day. 

Only a concerted effort will help to solve these problems and I hope I have played my part by highlighting them.

Responsible parents should not leave their children to chill at home while their colleagues are at school.The Education Ministry should also weigh in to curb this vice.

ssenyonga@gmail.com