By tomorrow, April 3, most of the schools in Rwanda will have broken off for the first term holidays. Almost all the students will be so pleased to be home once again after a long spell of academic concentration.
The parents of children in boarding schools will also be pleased to have them back home for.
According to the Ministry of Education school calendar, schools officially break for holiday on April 3 2009. However for some ‘flimsy’ reasons, some students returned home long before this date. I call them flimsy because this action cannot sufficiently be justified.
Many a time, especially in private schools, soon after the students have completed their examinations, they are allowed to return home and return a week later to collect their report cards.
There are usually two reasons behind this illegal and unfair action. One is that the school authorities often find it hard to control the students when they are idle while their teachers are busy marking papers and preparation of report cards.
What this reasoning tends to ignore is that those in charge of discipline should have the capacity to do a good job at all times, not just when students have classes.
Such schools usually lack recreation facilities to keep the students busy. Some have sports grounds but no balls. Others have halls but no television sets or even music systems to entertain the students.
Therefore in a situation where the students no longer have classes to attend after completing their end of term examination, idleness reaches catastrophic proportions.
This scenario often results in students indulging in all sorts of anti-social behaviours like smoking drinking and regularly escaping from school to go for other unconstructive agendas like watching films or visiting boyfriends or girlfriends.
Without reasonable alternative programmes the schools choose to let them go and return later for their report cards creating another expense for the parents who now have to provide their children with transport fare to pick the report cards.
The second reason is that for private schools, profit is often the key word in most of their operations. To this end, sending the children back home a week earlier results in a huge profit in form of savings on the daily costs of maintaining the students at the school.
Just think of a boarding school with over 800 students. Sending them home a week earlier simply means that money for breakfast, lunch, supper, electricity costs, water costs and other costs lasting for more than five whole days is saved. This is certainly a figure in millions of Rwandan francs.
This is against the background that the money paid by the students is meant to cater for their welfare while at school for all the days of the term. And besides, some parents adjust their spending when the children are away in boarding school.
Therefore sending them back prematurely almost amounts to an insult to the parents. The money they paid for their child is being fleeced by the school yet they now have to foot the expense of feeding extra (and unexpected) mouths.
The way forward is for the Ministry of Education officials to be more vigilant as far as school inspections are concerned to ensure that its directives are adhered to by all schools.
The Education Ministry also ought to demand that schools should have recreational facilities to keep students busy outside class. Education is not all about taking notes and sitting exams.
Students should be offered a chance to develop their talents through extra curricular activities and the end of the term after exams presents a good opportunity to do this.
This practice is simply unfair, illegal and amounts to the corruption the government is trying so hard to fight.