Brace yourselves for academic year


IT is going to be an unpredictable, if not chaotic school year because of what the Covid-19 pandemic has done.
All areas of national life, including education have been jolted by the pandemic over the past 12 months.
Teachers are going to resume work on Jan 25 and formal classes a week later.
Midway through last year, a lot of students in schools throughout the country withdrew because of the lengthy disruptions to learning.
They will therefore repeat their grades so that would mean higher than normal class sizes or additional classes.
Schools will be expected to maintain the mandatory Covid-19 protocols to ensure safety and hygiene on campus.
The Covid-19 did affect important national examination results of students in grades 8, 10 and 12.
For some, chances of continuing on to higher grades or tertiary education would have been affected by the disruption to normal life.
Not only will students be struggling academically due to the missed or rushed lessons in the past year, parents and sponsors will be hard pressed raising fees.
Employees were laid off, large and small businesses alike suffered a decline in revenues.
The informal sector which absorbs a large part of the population both in rural and urban centres has been hit hard because of restrictions on people’s movement and gathering in large numbers to trade.
The Government’s commitment in continuing school fee subsidies will be a relief but some may struggle still.
Parents and sponsors of more than one secondary or tertiary student will have to dig deeper to meet the prescribed fees.
Most institutions have a set minimum fee to be paid upon registration which may be difficult for struggling parents.
Their ability to raise money for education fees has obviously been hampered by the pandemic.
Another effort by the Government to assist parents and students who have dropped out in high and secondary schools is the announced free enrolment at flexible open distance education (Fode) centres.
This hopefully will encourage hundreds of students who could not make the selection quota for institutions of higher learning.
Having passed through the Fode system, they will then have equal opportunities for selection for upper grades or higher education institutions at the completion of their courses.
If all districts throughout the country do establish Fode learning centres, it would allow all eligible students who want to register to do so and make use of the great opportunity given them by the Government.
It is an opportunity that should not be missed, even it is only for a year. As far as teacher numbers are concerned, the Teaching Service Commission says it has already sent out a circular that allows for university graduates of technical people without teaching qualifications to teach in schools or technical vocational institutions.
They need to apply for available teaching positions.
The only concern there is that they may lack in didactics, the science and art of teaching.
The above are a few measures which should hopefully alleviate some of the issues the public education system has to grapple with at the start of each school year.
But everyone – boards, staff, parents and students – should brace themselves for a school year that will not be the same as those in the past.
After Covid-19 nothing is ever going to return to normal. There is only a new normal which everyone has been urged to adapt to.