7 August 2018

Rwanda: Why Govt Is Reviewing the School Calendar Again

The Ministry of Education has disclosed that the school calendar will start in September instead of January with effect from the 2020 academic year.

The new directive is for primary and secondary schools.

The ministry officials said that they are still in the process of analysing its feasibility with a final decision expected in before the end of the year.

The Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, told The New Times that the ministry is already in its final stages of consultations with different stakeholders, but within a period of three months they will be done with all the necessary process.

The decision will, however, require cabinet approval.

"We will be done before students go for the long holidays. They will leave school with all the information regarding the new calendar, giving them and the schools enough time to get prepared for that change," the Minister said.

Munyakazi said that the new revision aims at delivering three major changes, including protecting students from harsh dry season, aligning the academic year with the government fiscal year, as well as harmonising Primary and Secondary School calendar year to that of Universities.

According to the REB Director General, Dr Irénée Ndayambaje, the revision of the calendar will be done in a way that it does not affect the curriculum implementation.

"Now, people can be aware of the upcoming change and get prepared in advance. But we can assure them that the revision will not affect academic outcomes. It is two years ahead of the actual implementation. We have taken enough time to prepare to make sure the new calendar will come into effect with everything in place," he argued.

Ndayambaje also revealed that they have considered reducing the length of holidays.

In 2019, first-term may commence January 7, instead of the third week.

"This means that holidays will be shorter. Also, the number teachers who mark national exams is likely to increase so the can finish the task faster," he explained.

The 2019 academic year is likely to end in October to allow for enough time for national examinations, marking and orientation of primary and secondary school's ordinary level students, the minister added.

Schools and other stakeholders welcomed the new move, saying that revising the school calendar would improve the quality of education.

"Getting back to the old school calendar will bring positive learning outcomes because students will get to learn in good season and get long holidays in the dry season," said Felicite Mukeshimana, the head teacher of GS Gisagara.

Stanislas Munyengabire, a teacher of languages at Groupe Scolaire Sainte Bernadette, argued that getting back to the old calendar will help them to deliver their lessons well.

"In the dry season, especially in the afternoon, it was a bit hard for students to follow. I could look around in the classroom and a half of them were sleeping. Even for us teachers it is difficult to deliver effectively in such circumstances.

He added that once the new calendar is approved, he will resume his plan to enrol for a master's programme during holidays.

Parents said the proposal offers a sigh of relief because under the current arrangement school starts after the festive season, which makes it hard for them to raise school fess after spending on festivities.

"For day school children, having to walk miles in scotching is unpleasant. The harsh weather affects the performance of students," a parent said.

"June and August is the harvest period of Season C, which means we are economically stable. When, schools open in September, we have no big issues securing school fees," said Anastasie Uwababyeyi, a Rwamagana based farmer.

Jean-Léonard Sekanyange, the spokesperson of the National Civil Society Platform, said that all the motivations that led to the revision sound reasonable.

"Students who finished secondary schools were spending a lot of time before they could move on with the university studies because the university calendar was far ahead of the one for secondary school. This meant waste of time and loss for both the government and students themselves," Sekanyange said.

The proposed revision comes 14 years after Government restructured the academic year from starting in September to January. The move was aimed at harmonising with the other East African Community member countries.

Previously, the school year began in September and ended in July.

The change initially drew criticism from parents, students, and the Catholic Church, who argued that it was not in the interest of the Rwandan context.

Clerics claimed that July, August and September are months where it is too hot for students to concentrate on studies.

Recently, while closing the Catholic Education Week in Kigali, Bishop Philip Rukamba, the Bishop of Butare Diocese and the president of the Catholic Episcopal Conference, said that studying during the dry season slows down children's learning.

The Church runs over 1,360 primary and secondary schools accounting for 30 per cent of all the students countrywide.

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