Rwanda: Govt Extends School Teaching Time By Five Hours a Week

The Ministry of Education has added five teaching hours to the weekly timetables of all primary and secondary schools in a policy shift it said was designed to fix the learning gaps caused by disruptions of coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the education sector, bringing about prolonged closures of schools as the government suspended physical learning in order to deal with the virus spread.

The new programme, termed as remedial teaching, is also part of the government plan to help students who failed the national exams to catch up with their studies, the Ministry of Education announced on Tuesday, October 5.

Some 44,176 primary pupils and 16,666 O'Level students failed this year's national exams and will repeat their respective classes, the ministry said on Monday 4.

The news sparked mixed reactions from the public with some people saying that given the coronavirus pandemic, the government should've considered delaying the switch from the automatic promotion policy. Others have supported the government decision.

The extension of learning hours will take effect in the coming academic year, which begins on October 11.

"This programme will apply to all schools and we call upon teachers and head teachers to make sure that it is well followed," said Valentine Uwamariya, the Minister of Education as she officiated at the celebrations of the Word Teacher's Day on October 5.

However, some teachers have protested the move, saying that it will increase the workload for teachers who are already overwhelmed and distressed by coronavirus effects. And, that it might not necessarily benefit the learners.

While the minister said that the decision will help students who failed to perform better, because they will be followed up on a daily basis instead of revising on the verge of examinations, some teachers suggested that the new policy should be applied to learners who really need help.

"The teachers are overwhelmed in terms of revising and preparing school materials, so these additional hours will be difficult for them," said Callixte Rwakibibi, a teacher and member of the teacher's association.

For instance, he added, the programme will require teachers to work full time, without days off to look after their families.

The minister said that government does not wish for any student to fail or be left behind in their academics, "that is why we have introduced this program so that students will be followed up on a daily basis."

Currently, classes for private schools start at 8 am and end at 4 pm from Monday to Friday. Most public school study in shifts; the first shift starting at 7 am to 11:45 am while the second shift begins at 1 pm and end at 4:45 pm from Monday to Friday.

With the extended teaching hours, schools are likely to introduce weekend classes.

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