In Class Under COVID-19: How Rwandan Teachers, Students Are Coping

When Rwandan schools were still closed to prevent the spread of Covid-19, teachers were wondering how it would work to standi front of students and teach while wearing face masks, how they would  speak loudly enough for students to hear them through a mask, among other challenges.

 The academic year is here now and teachers who are back are figuring it out in real-time, adhering to the challenges and planning ways to make the new normal manageable for themselves and their students to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“We were pleased to see that students are ready; they all come to us wearing face masks, and they seem used to them. Physical distancing is also adhered to,” said Gerardine Umutaboba, a chemistry teacher at Groupe  Scolaire Protestant in Remera sector, Kigali.

“The challenge remains communication with students. We are using too much energy for our voice to go through the face mask.

“It is a big challenge to teach for a long time while wearing masks, but to prevent the spread of Covid-19 there is no alternative, we shall continue and get used. To communicate easily to students while wearing masks, you need to make movements, but keep the physical distancing,”

Umutaboba added that “When you speak for a long time, the exhaled carbon dioxide from the mouth bounces back because the mouth is covered by the mask, at the end of the lesson, you feel your skin on the nose burnt. if it’s possible, I think, the ministry of education should get us masks that allow carbon dioxide out, when you breathe out.”

He shares the idea with Eric Kubwimana, a teacher from Groupe Scolaire Protestant.

“It requires too much energy to speak louder while wearing masks; it’s not easy at all. You go home very exhausted,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Minister of eduation Uwamariya Valentine conducted an inspection in Kigali’s schools to see how the school environment is doing under COVID-19.

Schools were allowed to reopen classrooms on 2nd November 2020 starting with upper primary from primary five to primary six, secondary school candidate classes including senior three and six, TVET schools from level three to level five, and TTCs students.

“Everything concerning health, we shall first consult the ministry of health. If the ministry of health finds a problem of using these masks while teaching, we shall find a possible solution for the teachers,” Dr. Uwamariya said to answer the issue of masks.

Dr. Uwamariya is however convinced that teacher will finally get used “This is the second day of teaching; we shall see how it goes after one week.”

According to Dr. Uwamariya, students have reported back to their respective schools at an average of 70%.

On the school fees hikes by private schools which has been in news since the announcement of the new academic year calendar, Dr. Uwamariya said that schools were not supposed to increase school fees before consulting parents who were affected with Covid-19 impact.




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