The announcement that education institutions are likely to reopen on June 2 for candidate and final year classes offers some relief. The government argues this is to create the essential space for social distancing to avoid infection from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
But the re-opening of schools also poses several hard questions. Are parents prepared for re-start for candidate classes in Primary Seven (P7), Senior Four (S4), and Senior Six (S6),
and Final Year students at universities?
Regrettably, most parents have been locked out of both work and earnings for three months now. And in two weeks when the schools and universities re-open, these parents will only be stumbling back to work and squeezing out some coins, including for basic needs.
Moreover, these parents may have to plan for other dependents outside of the candidate and final year classes to be recalled on June 2.
Such plights are simply unimaginable, bearing in mind that these parents had already paid for both tuition and hostel fees, bought requirements and met project costs that have gone to waste with the Covid-19 lockdown.
Unavoidably, as government, through the Ministry of Education, considers reopening of education institutions, the same expenditure patterns will be imposed. It should, therefore, be incumbent upon our education planners to explore several options, including working out flexible and affordable modalities for paying tuition and hostel fees and associated costs.
Parents are emerging from extreme financial distress to carry these financial burdens after three months of no work, no earnings, but with three months of uninterrupted heavy spending during the lockdown.
What is more, there is the all-important issue of lost academic calendar. P7, S4, and S6 students have lost an entire term while the university students have lost a semester. Can the teachers and lecturers competently cover the syllabus and modules for the time lost? Or will they rush the learners to complete what was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic?
More worrying is, will the learners handle the crash programme, extra days at school and assignments?
Whatever the measures, the planners should balance the need for quality teaching and not compromising the quality of our graduates.
Similarly, with no end in sight for Covid-19, our education planners may have to radically rethink the school term calendar.
One option is for the term system to be shunted aside for the more flexible semester model. This would adjust readily to absorb financial pressures for parents, as well as avoid crash programmes and stressing both instructors and learners at all levels.