Heads of schools, parents call for reopen

Oct 2, 2020, 12:12 PM | Article By: Yunus S. Saliu

Various heads of schools and concerned parents have called on the government to review the stance on the closure of schools and reopen them without wasting more time, as many students are falling out of the educational track the longer they stay at home.

Some private school owners across the country especially in the Greater Banjul Area also registered their concern and cried out to the government to reopen schools without much ado in the interest of the students.

Some parents expressed their happiness and optimism in seeing their children back to school when the announcement for the reopening of schools for the grade 9 and 12 students was made to enable them sit the GABECE and WASSCE exams respectively, which exams are completed.

“But to my surprise, since the end of the two examinations, schools remain closed; this is not good for our children,” a notable father told this medium. 

Mr. William Attah, headmaster for Marina International School, one of the leading private schools in The Gambia expressed that “kids have lost on average 98% instructional days if you equate the number of absent days to grades.”

He explained that “any child predicted to have A sum now risk getting C and anyone predicted getting a C now risk completely falling off the scale.”

He further expressed his utmost concern as he called on government, especially Education Ministry and every concerned people to appreciate the common sense of what is happening to the future of these children and the country.

For the past six months, the government of The Gambia closed all schools, training institutes – the universities in the country following the first declaration of the State of Public Health Emergency in March this year as one of the measures taken to curb the spread and contact of the novel coronavirus in the country.

Mr. Attah asserted that his school, Marina International, when the pandemic emerged in the country while schools were closed, the Marina International started its operation through online and moved to a modified timetable online “using what they called Crisis Management Modules.”

Coping with the situation, he noted that “Marina International School has tried through the online classes, but it is not sustainable” to both parents, schools doing online classes and with not one hundred percent impact on the children.

He emphasised that government should open schools and set up a very strong system of monitoring which will hold any head of school and school management accountable if they fail to  adhere to the laid down rules.

Liane Sallah, another concerned and worried parent, encouraged the government to reopen schools before students would lose memory of what they have been taught in the last six months.

She explained that most of the schools especially private and international schools like Marina all have good measures in place to protect their students during the pandemic.

With the introduction of the online classes also known as home schooling, she said, majority of these children were struggling to catch up with what the teachers were teaching them because there face lots of challenges. These challenges include “internet connection, devices to use, accessibility to internet/data, conducive environment for the lecture, interaction/distraction and concentration and it is very tough for them.”

She argued that if some public places like market whereby there is no door or health official to monitor individuals in terms of checking the temperature, use of facemask, washing hands or sanitising hands before entering market and even keeping social distancing in the market, “then there is no need to continue closing schools where there are different officials, teachers who would monitor students’ wellbeing.”

Ronald William, also a parent, said there are two parts to the opening of the schools for the students, describing them as a big challenge.

He raised concern about the reopening of schools at nursery level. However,  he wants schools to reopen for the grown up children in higher grades to continue with their classes. The other challenges, he said, is about number of students in a classroom at a time.