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newtimes - 7 days ago

COVID-19: What next for teachers’ recruitment exercise?

Recently, primary and secondary school teachers were recalled after it emerged that some of the recently deployed teachers had missed certain recruitment exams.  The exams, held December 10, 2019, were aimed at recruiting at least 7,214 new teachers to improve the teacher-to-student ratio and decongest classrooms. The situation has left schools with insufficient teaching staff. There are cases where schools are still waiting for teachers who were supposed to sit for the examination, to be deployed in their schools to teach certain subjects. Now with the current situation, that is, schools closed to curb COVID-19 spread, the challenge prevails until the situation is completely resolved.s  Eugene Hakorimana, a teacher from Nyabihu District, says despite passing tests in English and Kinyarwanda, he is still on the waiting list, even with vacant positions in some of the schools in the same district.  Another teacher at GS Murama in Nyabihu District who asked for anonymity, says they have no teachers for English, entrepreneurship, history and computer science.  Education sought different views from educators on how this could impact that education system, and the possible way forward amid the halt of school activities during COVID-19 outbreak.  Experts believe that this will cause disruption in learning as some schools might still go on without teachers for an unspecified period of time.   Teachers need to be physically present in the classroom to be able to impact a range of outcomes, beyond class scores. The impact Mathias Nkeeto, a mathematics teacher at Green Hills Academy, says first and foremost, there are high possibilities of such teachers developing psychological problems.  He says they will be psychologically affected, because of the possibility of re-sitting for the course. “When this happens, the people who will be affected are the learners because teachers will not be able to deliver effectively,” he says.  Another challenge, Nkeeto says, is that even if these teachers are to do the examinations eventually, there is a chance that most of them have lost interest already. Instead, they will do it for the sake of finishing and moving forward. Martin M. Masabo, the head teacher at Lycée de Kigali, believes that such can be avoided only if officials get it done ahead of time. “It’s somehow difficult for school administrators to solve the issue of insufficient teachers at their school, because every teacher is specialised and good in specific areas, therefore, the challenge comes in when they are told to handle what they are not comfortable with,” he says. Aminadhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School, Kigali, says teachers are also likely to incur extra costs in terms of transportation, among other things. Niyonshuti adds that some students might also lose interest in learning as a result of not getting required assistance in classrooms.  Nkeeto concurs Niyonshuti’s sentiments, adding that with their (students) age, whatever amount of time this could take, it could lead to some students disappearing from school, especially those at a higher level, and engaging in harmful activities because of idleness at school. “When the teacher is repeatedly absent, student performance can be significantly impacted in a negative way. The more days a teacher is out of the classroom, the lower the students tend to score and also give up on attending school on a daily basis,” he says. Going forward To avoid such circumstances in the future, Masabo says it’s paramount for officials to ensure when schools are opened that all teachers are deployed in their respective areas, thus, the school can begin their academic journey with all teachers to avoid inconveniences.  If this is not done, he says there is likely to be inefficiency on their side and that of the school. Nkeeto feels that instead of making these teachers sit and wait for the remaining examinations, if possible, they should be given a chance to continue practicing teaching in areas they are skilled in.  “It will be meaningless for them to just sit around and wait to re-sit their examinations as time wasted will never be recovered,” he says. Meanwhile, Omer Mayobere, a psychologist working with Caring for Impact Ministries (CIM), an NGO, says there is need for the affected teachers to be counselled and psychologically supported.  He says that most of them might not like the process, thus higher possibilities of them giving up or not going back again. Depending on how long the problem will take, Masabo says in the long run, this can have a negative impact on the performance of the school in general. “For public schools, this hits them hard because they lack ownership, unlike private schools,” says.  Nkeeto says it’s also vital for the affected teachers to be given refresher courses as they wait, which is far more important than letting them sit at home doing nothing.  This, he says, can act as a reminder of what they have been studying, so as to be prepared the moment they are deployed in their respective areas.  Sam Ogawng, an English and literature teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, is of the view that if possible, breaking down the courses is ideal.  He suggests that some days, like weekends, should be meant for their studies as on weekdays they continue with teaching, so that it doesn’t interrupt their normal teaching schedules. Nkeeto also feels that it would be better if they are provided with some incentives to motivate them or provide them with some transportation to cater for their expenses. In cases where schools still don’t have enough teachers, Ogawng says administrators should think of bringing in substitutes to cover the class. Most of the time, such teachers will not be nearly as effective, but it’s better than leaving the class unoccupied, even for a short period of time.

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