Education Minister Advances Reason for Stretching School Days

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By: Kebba AF Touray

Mrs. Claudiana Cole, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), on Wednesday appeared before the National Assembly and advanced reasons for stretching School days from Monday to Saturday.

Mrs. Cole appeared to give explanations in response to a question raised by the Member for Bakau, Assan Touray.

In his question, Touray asked the Minister to inform Members on the modalities in place to support learning activities in bigger Schools, saying students have resumed in the midst of a pandemic with School days stretched from Monday to Saturday.

In her response to the Member for Bakau, Minister Cole informed Members that Ministry has developed modalities for the reopening of Schools to ensure continuity of learning during the pandemic. She said the models are tailored to suit the needs of Schools with a target of achieving 200 days on the School calendar. She however said the modalities are not one size fits all; that hence based on simulation, only 23 Schools across the country were expected to alternate.

Mrs. Cole also explained reasons for stretching School days from Monday to Saturday for Primary Schools and for all categories of Schools as well.

“Considering the social distancing needed to deploy in Classrooms, those that accommodate up to 45, they will take half of that number.

We needed to double the number of Classrooms that we have in our Schools, to be able to accommodate students and to give them equal amount of contact time for the School year,” she said; that this is the reason why Schools did not have enough Classrooms, and they had to use different models and the alternating model is one that they use for the big Schools.

This she said, will ensure that all students would have an opportunity to be able to be in Schools for a certain number of days in a week.

Fatomatta Njai, the Member for Banjul South asked the Minister whether the Covid-19 protocols are being observed and how they are monitoring and implementing the COVID restriction.

Minister Cole replied:

“We are regularly monitoring the Covid-19 restriction at all the levels and we continue to provide the necessary personal protective equipment to ensure that students are safe. We are regularly monitoring to ensure that the Covid guidelines are respected and the personal protective equipment is available in Schools.”

Halifa Sallah, the Member for Serrekunda asked whether the minister will accept that there is no equity in terms of contact hours in Schools and if so, are they carefully monitoring the impact of that inequity with the view to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

In her response, Minister Cole emphasized that all the arrangements that they have now are for the current period and that as soon as the Covid-19 period passes, they will make sure they make up for all the lost contact hours. She said they are doing their best to ensure they address the challenges which is why they extended the School hours; that for the Schools that do not operate the rotational model, extra classes are ongoing to ensure that lost contact hours are made up for.

“These arrangements are for the short and medium term. As soon as everything turns to normal, we will definitely look into these challenges and try to address them,” she said.