Rwanda: Gradual School Reopening to Start in October

26 September 2020

The Minister of Education has said that the reopening of schools is expected to start gradually in October and conclude in November 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Valentine Uwamariya made the remarks on Saturday, September 26, 2020 during a news programme on Rwanda Television.

The temporary closure of schools started in March 2020 as a means to control the Covid-19 pandemic - a viral respiratory disease. The initial reopening of schools which was expected in September 2020 was impeded by the increase in Covid-19 cases.

But, the number cases have since gone down, according to reports from the Ministry of Health.

The Minister explained that the resumption of classes will start in October with university and higher learning institutions, while other schools under the national academic programme will be next.

"Our wish is that schools of all levels [including nursery, primary and secondary] would have reopened by mid-November," she said.

Meanwhile, Minister Uwamariya suggested that schools [including primary and secondary] which follow international academic programmes could also reopen in October.

"Most of the schools with international academic programmes have often indicated that schools have reopened in the countries of their origin. Those are also allowed to start offering courses once they have fulfilled the imposed requirements," she said.

The Minister's comments follow a cabinet resolution of Friday, September 25, 2020 which stated that schools will resume with a gradual reopening in the coming weeks based on levels of education.

The resolution added that a detailed reopening schedule and readiness assessment will be conducted and communicated by the Ministry of Education.

Studying in shifts very likely

On whether the construction of all the more than 22,000 new classrooms for primary and secondary schools will have been completed by the time of the reopening, the Minister said that it is not likely.

"We will miss the set deadline because of valid reasons linked to the Covid-19 induced delays in the shipment into the country of some of the construction materials abroad," she said.

"But, we have hope that more than 70 percent of the classrooms will be ready in November," she said, indicating that it is the building of multi-floored classroom structures that will note be complete because they take more time.

The Minister said that the in line with complying with the physical distancing guidelines - at least one meter between a student and another -, only one student will sit on a desk - which is different from two students per desk that was a common situation especially in primary and secondary schools before the pandemic broke out.

"This move implies that the number of hours in which students follow lessons will decrease because there will be different shifts depending on the students' class level and programme," she said, adding that the Ministry of Education will indicate how that will be done, in a school schedule that it will issue.

In any case, she said, there must be changes in teaching methods, as well as timetable "so that we comply with the guidelines of the Ministry of health, because the school reopening will take place amid the pandemic."

Complying with measures to prevent Covid-19

The Minister requested parents and other education partners in general so that we implement the Covid-19 preventive measures in schools.

"We are not reopening schools to study as usual. Education provision and acquisition will respect the (health) guidelines. For instance, no school will be allowed to reopen if it does not have hand washing facilities for children (students). Wearing a mask will be a must for every student. Parents should consider that," she said.

"Covid-19 continues to take the lives of our people. It would be sad if such awful reality continues," she said, underscoring the need to prevent the spread of Covid-19 into schools.

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