What you need to know:
- Makeshift structures such as tents would help to decongest classrooms
- Studies carried out by the World Bank show that double-shift schools allow students who want to finish school a chance to work and attend school, in the process reducing overcrowding.
Traditionally, a school day has nine (30- and 40-minute) lessons in primary and secondary schools, respectively — or five to six hours a day.
This means if a second shift is introduced, to start at 2pm in lower and upper primary school, the pupils would be going home at 8pm and secondary school students latest at 10pm.
This programme would succeed best in urban areas, where life goes on long after dusk. It is in the urban areas where learning space is not enough and rural-urban migration continues unabated.
Schools deal with literacy, numeracy, nutrition, hygiene, mental and psychological support for the young people. The longer they are out of learning institutions, the less likely they are to return.
That would see us backpedalling on the gains of free primary education, introduced in 2003, free secondary (started in 2008) and the more recent 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school.
These dangers are real and urgent. As leaders plan to reopen schools, we must consider maximising the use of the existing structures using double shift.
The how is simple. With double shift, the government will have increased the utilisation of existing infrastructure, thereby reducing the cost of education and, crucially, releasing pupils from informal settlements to do productive work elsewhere.
Studies carried out by the World Bank show that double-shift schools allow students who want to finish school a chance to work and attend school, in the process reducing overcrowding.
Adopting double-shift schooling will increase the number of students who will be taught without having to construct more buildings.
With double shift, we will benefit from efficient use of land, buildings, facilities and equipment, thereby reducing the cost per unit. For example, to avoid ownership of a permanent space in the classroom and a locker for the safe keeping of books, the schools should construct a lockable pigeon hole for every student along the corridors. This will set the room free for the second shift.
Where that is not practicable, makeshift structures such as tents would help to decongest classrooms. The same can be done for dormitories.
To keep the coronavirus at bay, complement this with such measures as social distancing; providing handwashing points; sanitising surfaces like door knobs, toilets and taps; ensuring learners and teachers wear a three-layer face mask; investing in a good thermal gun to pick out those with a fever; setting up a sick bay for those infected with the virus; working with health facilities to handle cases; and training a few staff on how to handle cases.
On Monday, October 5, we could pilot this with the examination classes and all tertiary institutions, including universities; 14 days later, depending on the success of the pilot, we could reopen all classes.