One time during the visit by the former American President Bill Clinton to Uganda, a US marine confided in my brother on a security matter.
He told him that he (the American) could shoot four Ugandan soldiers before the fifth (a Ugandan soldier) could react. My brother who was then working at old Entebbe airport asked the American to substantiate his claims.
The soldier then told him that a professional soldier on guard starts to lose his concentration after four hours and that the Ugandans had been on guard for hours and some were even sleeping on duty.
An economist would explain the above claims by simply quoting the law of diminishing marginal returns. If I may try to recall my ‘A’ level economics, this is a law that basically talks of the cumulative reduction in the additional usefulness of a good as one consumes more and more of it.
I wish to apply the above theory to something I have noticed lately. I have been carrying out a mini survey about schools in relation to how much work their teachers do. I discovered that some schools in Rwanda are operating with a very thin staff with few teachers doing more work.
I have not had the time to find out from all schools or even the officials at the Ministry of Education on how many lessons a teacher is supposed to have. I have however used the extremes of my survey to draw a few conclusions here and there.
I intend to do more research on this issue in the near future. In some schools for instance, you may find a teacher having more than 30 periods (lesson hours usually of 50 minutes each) in a week while in another you find a teacher having only 14 periods or less.
Another unwritten ‘economic law’ is that which says that those who work more are paid less than those who work less!
Therefore the schools where you find a teacher with a very heavy work load are the same schools offering very low wages. But putting that aside, I really think the school administrators need to think of whether having a teacher with a very heavy work load does not indeed compromise the effectiveness of that teacher.
Just like the professional soldier on guard, many times a teacher does his/her work while standing. Therefore having him standing for hours on end each day certainly affects his/her performance. It is always bad enough having a class of tired students especially during the afternoon lessons. Having a tired teacher in class too would only be beyond misery.
School owners (especially of private schools) should not think that by employing few teachers to do the work of many is a strategy for saving money. This reminds me of the English football club, Arsenal FC that failed to win any trophy last season largely because their coach thought he was saving by having a thin squad.
I also urge the responsible officials from the Ministry of Education to look into this matter seriously. Once teachers are doing more work than is optimally enough, it means the school is not only exploiting them but also denying them the chance to do their best and this affects the students they teach.
On the other hand some schools simply employ several teachers but on part-time basis only. Such teachers may also not perform well because they end up teaching in more than one school and the commuting they do from one school to another may tire them as well.
It is really important for teachers to have enough time to rest and prepare for lessons instead of piling them with a very heavy load of work. Why should a school for instance have one Geography teacher, teaching from S.1 to S.6? Head teachers need to remember the law of diminishing marginal returns.