I met a group (about 10) of kids on Kairaba Avenue and asked them if they’re going to school.
They said they were, but in the afternoon shift. They told me they were coming from studies and going to the home of one of them to study some more before going to school at St. Theresa’s.
Funny thing though: I noticed that none of them, except for one who had a backpack, had a book or books with them. I advised them to go study instead of loitering in the streets and they said they will, and thanked me.
But I thought to myself, why has the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), indeed all of us, resigned to making afternoon schooling permanent?
This is a terrible situation that short-changes children (in both morning and afternoon shifts) who would be forced to grow up into semi-educated adults because they do not have enough instruction in school. A teacher who teaches both afternoon and morning shifts would not have time to prepare lesson notes, talk less of giving students homework and grading them.
Many years ago, I went to Gambia High School out of curiosity only to find that the stairs in the staircase at the western end of the classroom block were so worn out they had depressions gouged in them. And why not if there is no time or opportunity to maintain the infrastructure because of the two shifts?
My suggestion to alleviate this very serious problem is that government should develop a plan to get rid of afternoon schooling, mobilize resources, train more teachers, and build new schools to provide space for every child to go to school in the morning, and go to studies in the afternoons, like we old people used to.
Furthermore, government would ban afternoon schooling outright, meaning that private schools with afternoon shifts will reduce their shifts to one (the morning shift) and, if they can, build more classrooms to increase the sizes of their morning shifts.
This is just a rough framework which, of course, would have to be fleshed out later. But the clear objective would be to end afternoon schooling in this country.
We really need to do for our children better than what we offer them now.
Katim S. Touray