Schools close this week to mark the end of the first term of the new academic year. Since late last year, schools have been going through a race to recover time lost in the lengthy closure last year due to the coronavirus lockdown.
In the recovery plan, the school calendar has been dramatically shortened to restore normalcy. Implementing the academic programme is fraught with challenges for learners, teachers and parents. However, that is a stop-gap measure. Even so, the government needs to review the plan. After a year of implementation, vital lessons have been learnt that should inform progression in the coming months.
A critical challenge parents face is finances. They have to pay fees at close intervals and also cater for transport and learners’ other needs at a time when many are hard hit due to the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In this context, the Education ministry should consider mitigation measures. It’s recalled that the ministry reduced school fees at the beginning of the term. That should continue for the rest of the year to cushion families. For that reason, schools that are overcharging fees should be sanctioned.
Secondly, the ministry should consider doing away with mid-term breaks in the interim because they come at a cost. Indeed, it does not make sense for learners to break off every few weeks yet the terms are quite short.
Thirdly, the bursary allocation needs to be aligned with the school calendar and more children brought on board given the increased vulnerability of many households.
Crucially important, emphasis should be put on proper preparation of candidates for national examinations so that they are not unduly disadvantaged, given that they have just a few months remaining in their final year of study.
Let the government find a way of managing the school calendar that minimises pain on learners, teachers and parents.