"We don't want these students in boarding schools to think that they are in prison, but instead, know that what has been temporarily stopped are studies only." -- Minister Uwamariya
On Sunday, January 17, the Ministry of Education (Mineduc) announced a two-week-long suspension of studies in nursery, primary and secondary schools located in Kigali City, in a bid "to contain the spread of Covid-19, especially in City of Kigali".
The decision came into effect on Monday, the same day nursery and pre-primary schools were expected to resume physical learning after 10 months without attending classes.
Considering that the directive came unexpectedly, many questions arose.
Below are five things you should know about the decision;
Why schools in Kigali only?
In an interview with the public broadcaster, RBA, on Monday, the Minister of Education, Valentine Uwamariya, said that the decision to close schools in Kigali only was based on the fact that the capital is currently the main Covid-19 hotspot.
"There was no need to close schools in other provinces where Covid-19 infections are not as high as those in Kigali. It would be unfair to do so," she said.
According to the Ministry of Health's figures, for the last seven days, of 1,402 infections reported countrywide, 808 were identified in Kigali. This is equivalent to a 57.6 percent.
The Minister also highlighted that while taking the resolution, there were tendencies of halting schools in Huye district as well, due to the many Covid-19 cases reported from the district which is located in Southern Province.
What is next for students who remained in boarding schools?
As per Mineduc's communique, boarding students in schools located in Kigali shall remain at their respective schools for the two weeks period.
According to the ministry, this was in bid "to avoid the back and forth transportation of students that takes time," and may also expose these students to the virus.
In the statement, Mineduc said that these students will "continue to receive essential services" while at school.
Shedding light on these services, Uwamariya explained that they include eating as they used to, getting time to play and have fun, and doing individual academic revision. On the latter, she said that it can be done by students who are at home as well.
"We don't want these students in boarding schools to think that they are in prison, but instead, know that what has been temporarily stopped are studies only," she noted.
How will the academic imbalance between Kigali and upcountry schools be fixed, especially for candidate students?
Considering that students whose schools were halted and those who are allowed to operate will sit for the same national examinations, it raises concerns of whether they will be at the same academic level at the time of these exams.
Uwamariya said that the ministry is aware of this concern.
"People should not be worried about this because we are already aware of it and we are the ones, in partnership with other institutions, who set these exams. We will first assess where students countrywide have reached with their studies and set the national exams accordingly, so as to avoid any form of inequality," she explained.
For other class levels besides the candidate classes (primary six, senior three, and senior six), the minister said that if all goes well and schools resume after two weeks, there are possibilities that the academic gap can be filled.
Will the paid school fees be in vain?
Some parents, especially those with children in nursery and pre-primary schools had paid school fees and other necessary school equipment, as they thought that the ten-month-long stay at home for their children would come to an end on Monday.
On this note, some of them voiced concerns on whether the paid school fees will remain valid until their children resume studies or not.
Allaying these concerns, Uwimana said: "There can't be a justification of how parents whose children are in lower primary and nursery can pay schools fees twice, when their children have not yet gone to school even once."
"We will work together with parents and schools to prevent such things from happening," she added.
What is the fate of students who study from upcountry while residing in Kigali?
Normally, there are students who live in Kigali but their schools are located in districts neighboring Kigali, such as Bugesera and Kamonyi districts among others.
This means that their schools are allowed to continue operating, as they are located outside the city.
"We are working with local governments and the Police to help such students cross to their respective schools," Uwamariya said.