23 January 2013

Gambia: Vox Pop On Change of Working Days and Hours

Following the announcement by the office of the president of the change in working days and hours that is to take effect from the 1 February 2013, the Foroyaa has been conducting a 'Vox Pop' on the issue to get the opinions of the members of the general public on the advantages and disadvantages of such an executive order. In this edition, the views of a school head, teacher and students are sought on how this change is going to impact on teaching and learning in school.

According to a principal of a secondary school in Region One, the recently announced change of working days and hours starting from Mondays to Thursday 8.am to 6.pm is absolutely strange to him. He said this new schedule, if implemented, will affect both the students and staff of his school, due to the fact that the compulsory contact hours with the students will not be met. He said for the teachers and staff to relax on Friday and then resume on Saturday and again relax on Sunday will not be reasonable for the teachers who want the weekend for themselves. He predicts poor performance on the part of teachers if they are forced to have Fridays off and go to school on Saturdays and rest again on Sundays. "The consequence of this as you all know is poor results in the academic performance of students", warned the school head master.

He also noted that the Afternoon Shifts in the schools are going to be more seriously affected by this new change of learning days because they utilize Saturday to attend weekend study classes due to the insufficiency of the contact hours during the working week which they try to recover during the weekends.

He said all the students that commute especially those in Afternoon shift who close at 6pm would be required to struggle with the other workers for scarce transports.

"Even under this present situation with the scarcity of public transports, the teachers and children do not reach their homes until very late. I wonder with this new time schedule what time they will come home very tired, eat, prepare for the next school day and retire in bed? What productivity and performance do you expect from this" he asked.

The school head also asked "What security would there be for young female students in Afternoon Shift who leave in far-off settlements without street lights who would arrive home until after 8pm?"

Another aspect which the school head identifies as another disadvantage to teachers in this new arrangement is that they will be required to work for more hours than other workers without a concomitant salary increase.

He called on the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education to prevail on the executive to revisit and rescind this new working days and hours as it is not favourable to teachers and students in pursuit of efficient teaching and acquiring education.

A school teacher in Region One, for his part, explained that it is going to be very difficult for them because they will have to change their contact hours with the students and then their weekend study classes which are meant for tutorials or to go over the lessons learnt during the preceding week. "I am also of the conviction that this change of working days and hours if it comes into effect will not help both the teachers and students alike, because there will always be a low turnout of students and teachers on Saturdays", he said.

He also reiterated the clash of the closing time of both the workers and students in Afternoon Shift which will create a lot of difficulties for both of them.

"Since decisions are taken by governments to facilitate certain processes that make life easy for the people, I am informing the government that this move if it is taken with the intention of serving the best interest of the Gambian people will instead realize the very opposite of what is intended", said the teacher.

He added "We have been going to school and closing on time on Fridays to attend 'Jumah' prayers. In fact it is easier for some of us to prepare and attend 'Jumah' when we are out at work than to go to the mosque from our homes", the teacher concluded.

Fatou Jobe, a student of Gambia Senior Secondary School in Banjul, for her part, said if the new working days and hours are put into effect, it will not only affect the students but their teachers as well because the teachers have always been complaining about the insufficient contact hours which is the reason why they conduct extramural classes in the weekend. "So given this situation, if a day is to be reduced it will affect us badly", she said.

She added that making Friday a non-working day will also affect businesses and people who engage in financial transactions as banks do close operations during the period of the prayers and re-open after that for people to receive or deposit money.

She concluded by appealing to government to reconsider this decision and allow the status quo to continue.

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