Principals in government secondary and high schools started admitting students for the 2016/2017 academic year on 16 August 2016 following the ministerial circular requesting that the exercise should commence.
Admissions are expected to respect the ministerial directives by ensuring that Form One classes or their French equivalent, Sixième, should not contain over 60 students and the rest of the classes above 80 students. Yet, the situation on the ground seems to present several facets. There are urban areas where the demographic pressure makes it difficult for head teachers to ignore desperate parents. In the rural areas, there exists inadequate infrastructure to harbour students in some localities. Moreover, influence peddling in cities and rural milieu most often pose serious concerns to school officials. Social and family ties within our context are most often challenging, with local administrative authorities and other stakeholders posing a threat to school officials who may want to respect texts and refuse admission to children from such influential parents.
In some localities, problems of infrastructure are either handled by Parent Teachers’ Associations (PTAs) that build classrooms or look for alternatives to similar obstacles in school accommodation. Besides these, there are cases where the structures do not exist at all, leaving the kids to study in the open air. In such situations, the issue of limiting intake no longer pose any problem. Of course, in localities where children have to be persuaded to attend school, the challenges of space for classes also do not exist. Confronted with a multiplicity of setbacks, most officials are often in dilemma obeying instructions and satisfying parents and students in schools enrolment.
Consequently, while it is important to issue directives to ensure efficiency in schools, there is also the question of providing the required means for Principals to overcome the obstacles they face. If in some schools it is possible to provide for several streams; A, B, C, D, E, F, as the case may be, there are those who cannot afford the buildings to host many classes. Some Principals are either obliged to share classes or existing buildings by taking some students in the mornings and others in the afternoons, especially if two schools share the same campus.
However, field experiences in most cases are often at variance with existing instructions. Faced with certain pressures, Principals either bend the rules by looking for other crude outlets or simply turn away parents to Shylock school proprietors who neither bother about study conditions nor recruit qualified teachers. Thus, to effectively respect the instructions of the Minister of Secondary Education, officials have to provide the means so that the needs of specific localities are taken into consideration. It is increasingly evident that the education of children is not negotiable and school authorities as well as parents have to tackle the challenges head-on and ensure that lasting solutions exist for a hitch-free academic year.