By the time I sat to write this piece I was feeling quite low. You may wonder why I am feeling this way but funny enough I am also wondering how things came to this point. The school calendar started this week with most schools getting back to business by January 12th.
However, it is also worth noting that even by the time you read this, most schools may not really be operating at the expected levels.
On Tuesday this week, The New Times carried a story of students of Martyrs Secondary School in Remera as having staged a strike because some of their teachers had been dismissed in unclear circumstances.
During my school days, I was a party to several students’ strikes especially at Makerere University; I cannot however remember ever being in a strike on the first day of school! The reason notwithstanding this strike really says a lot about how this academic year has begun.
Closer home at my place of operation, Alliance High School, I have been appalled by the slow pace at which students are showing up.
There had not been much teaching by the time this was written due to the fact that the student numbers were way too low. This was not always the case.
Back in the day, students used to start trekking to school from the Saturday of the week before and by Monday a good number would be ready to take their first lesson of the year.
Five years down the road and it now looks as if the enthusiasm for education is at an all-time low. Some schools used to employ light punishments to students that reported late to school say three days after the official day of opening.
Culprits would be sent home to bring a parent to explain the causes of the delay. I was reminded by a fellow teacher that one problem could be the fact that most private secondary schools now insist that students should report to school only after paying at least half of the tuition fees.
This according to him implies that students will only show up when they can afford to clear their dues not when teachers expect them in class.
I then thought of how it was done during my days and remembered that some schools always told students to report on the first day with the only major requirement being a medical report showing that they were healthy enough to attend class.
The school fees issue would be raised a month into the term and the defaulters would be sent home to clear the outstanding dues.
Now you find yourself in a situation where a teacher and some students are ready to start but the numbers are so low that teaching them means having to repeat all the things taught when the laggards eventually show up.
And it is quite hard to buy and put in practice the idea of teaching the few who are there since they have paid and shouldn’t be punished for reporting in time.
The maverick State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Théoneste Mutsindashyaka should look into this issue.
This is because when students delay to start serious study, there will certainly be a panic situation towards the end when teachers find that they have to try and cover the topics that were not covered in time.
In other words, the unnecessary delays at the beginning push teachers into a tight situation as-far-as planning is concerned.
This is a year in which schools are trying so hard to implement the new changes in language and subject policy and so there is no need for any impediments like students delaying to show up at school.
If you are a student and still at home please find away of coming to school. I personally do not wish to be paid for waiting for you.