columnBy Alagi F. S. Sora
According to the Press release form the Office of the President Friday is not a school day.
It is reported that the education authorities have emphatically indicated that even study classes are not permitted on Fridays.
However, visiting schools in Kanifing,Manjai, and Serrekunda areas where teachers had meetings to put plans to see how to compensate for the loss of contact hours on Friday during staff meetings, students awaited their teachers to give them the outcome of their meetings.
Meanwhile, in Manjai Kunda, students expressed their total disappointment regarding the sudden change in the working days without proper consultations.
A grade nine student told me: "we are even wondering whether we will finish our syllabus, because second term is a term of activities, is a term the inter houses and athletic competitions take place, as well as many public holidays."
While waiting for teachers to come out of the meeting, the head boy of the school also told me: "I think the ministry should try and find a way out because if this is implemented, it would affect us " She opined.
Mr. Camara, a senior teacher in one of schools expressed his disappointment that if this is the plan of the government they should have done it before the beginning of the academic year so that schools could know how to prepare their Timetables. He said the moment is crucial since they have only 2 months to go before the final exams. He said many schools have classes from Monday to Saturday and evening classes so as to cover their syllabuses and revise before the exams.
A principal said Education has been a vibrant sector and therefore does not need to be interrupted in the way they operate, forgetting the Gambia is also part of the West African exams Council, and is the same syllabus in all the sister countries. He added that if the syllabuses are not covered this would in turn affect the out come of the exams.
The Principal also reveals that his school is at loggerhead with the proprietress who said if Friday is excluded she would reduce the salaries because she said Saturday is already a compulsory extra day proposed by the PTA so as to cover the syllabus and revise before exams; adding that teachers also insisted that this is not their making and even though the school is a private school they should not reduce their salaries because that would not be to their advantage as teachers. He opined that if their little salaries are reduced they would prefer to quit teaching and find a job in other sectors. He also said he is disappointed when he heard the exclusion of some departments on Wednesday 29 January over the GRTS without mentioning education as part of those who were to be working on Fridays.
He expressed doubt whether the consequences have been calculated.
Mean while, Teachers of a school in Kanifing said that if Friday is going to be excluded then the school would not operate on double shift on Saturday without denying teachers a weekend
The Principal of the school name withheld said this change in working hours is a total disadvantage to the school workers, teachers, and students at large. He said if what is said is implemented, the reduction in number of days would affect the way they run the double shift; saying he and the entire management at the school are all confused and are thinking of what to do. He said he is even scared if the school owner puts the school on a single shift on Saturdays there will be confusion among the staff on the number of contact hours with the students..
Further more, teachers who were approached opined that: "This shift in working hours is a set back. Imagine some of us are university students who are even sponsoring ourselves with the little we earn here on double shift", They explained. One teacher lamented that if the school is going to work on single shift to also meet their expenditures, they would not have any choice but to continue suffering in the teaching field as students of UTG. "We don't blame the school management for any change because they are doing it against their will",he said.
He further reveals that due to the high enrollment rate, the school is operating on a double shift, and said if all those students have to come in a single shift, it would also be detrimental to both students and the teachers "It is right time for the government to revisit its decision otherwise they will affect the education sector which is one of the most vibrant sectors of the country" he concluded
Some thanked this paper for seeking the opinions of people and challenged the national media to do the same as the media is the only tool that can amplify the concerns of those affected.