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Rwanda: Mad Rush to Fix Gaps Ahead of Return of Younger Schoolchildren

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As nursery and lower primary pupils prepare to resume physical learning, some schools have cited uncompleted new classrooms as one of the challenges to welcoming back learners in the midst of the pandemic.

The young learners will resume classes on Monday, January 18, 2021 after 10 months of Covid-19 forced “holidays”.

The New Times visited and talked to different schools to discover how ready they are for the reopening.

“The preparations are gaining momentum but our new seven classrooms under construction are not yet complete,” said Alphonsine Dusabeyezu, the Head Teacher of Groupe Scolaire Kimironko in Gasabo District. She disclosed that there’s a shortage of furniture in the already existing three classrooms.

Work on the school new classroom blocs is at 85 per cent, Dusabeyezu said, meaning they will not be able to admit new pupils. Delays in construction were partly occasioned by the late distribution of construction materials.

In order to navigate the challenges and cope with the Covid-19 guidelines, the school will resort to the double shift learning arrangement for upper primary students until new classes are ready.

“We are also in the process of procuring new desks for the three classrooms,” she said.

The school has 687 pupils in upper primary and 1,006 students in secondary.

With the new 839 pupils coming in on Monday, the pressure on the school resources is set to increase, which has also forced management to suspend plans to admit more pupils.

“We are not registering new pupils for primary one until the new classrooms are complete,” she said.

In adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines, the school has put in place 13 handwashing stations within the school premises, restocked hand sanitisers and thermometers.

Despite these efforts, some challenges persist.

“There is one isolation room in case of suspected Covid-19 positive cases, but it is not enough,” she said.

Rugasire Euzebius, the Head Teacher of G.S Kicukiro in Kicukiro District, said that their main challenge is the shortage of desks.

“We are working with the sector and the district to solve this issue,” he said.

The school, which in total has about 3,000 children will also receive both nursery and primary students.

“It requires two children per one desk to ensure social distancing yet three children used to sit on one desk. This means we currently have a shortage of desks. If we do not get them those who were supposed to study in single shift will study in double shift. We could also limit the number of new pupils in P1 and let them enrol in other nearby schools,” he said.

To avoid congestion, he added, there will be only one nursery classroom yet they used to have two nursery classrooms.

In addition to hand washing stations, the school also has two rooms where Covid-19 positive students are quarantined.

Countrywide, the first group of students resumed on November 2, 2020 followed by another on November 23.

What district authorities say

The issue of uncompleted classrooms is widespread in different districts.

Clémence Gasengayire, the Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs in Gisagara District, said that four classrooms were destroyed by windstorm while the 300 classrooms are yet to be completed. The district has added 289 classrooms.

“Rehabilitation has started and it can take a week,” she said.

Axelle Kamanzi, the vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs in Musanze District said that 551 classrooms were constructed including 88 storied classrooms blocs.

For Jeanne Umutoni, the Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs in Rwamagana District, the district was supposed to build 911 classrooms and 1,200 latrines. She said that the completion rate is 90 per cent.

However, she said, even though the classrooms are not fully complete, there will be special arrangements so that they are used by students.

“We held a virtual meeting with the education ministry this morning (Thursday). We have realized that those classrooms at 90 per cent can be used as final works continue during weekends,” she said.

However, she pointed out the prevailing shortage of furniture, particularly desks.

Last week, in a press conference, the Minister of education, Valentine Uwamariya said that the completion rate of over new classrooms is at between 80 percent and 90 per cent.

In June 2020, the ministry of education kicked off the construction of 22,505 classrooms in all the 30 districts of the country.

“Schools should prepare for reopening for another group as they previously did it successfully. Teachers should strictly supervise children to prevent the spread of Covid-19,” she said.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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