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By Elizabeth Osayande

Although the one-week mid-term break given to schools by the Lagos State Government has come and gone, the controversy it raised among stakeholders in the sector is still subsisting.

While announcing the break, the Director-General, Office of Education Quality Assurance, OEQA, Mrs Abiola Seriki-Ayeni, had charged school heads and owners to among other things ensure they professionally enrich teachers to aid improved staff performance, effectiveness and efficiency as training and retraining is key to professional development in the 21st Century.

When the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Edumark/ Founder of Concerned Parents and Educators Network, CPE, Mrs Yinka Ogunde posted this, “What are the lessons to be learnt by both schools and government in the midst of the confusion about mid-term?”, on the CPE online platform, many stakeholders aired their concerns over the issue.

Confusion in the school calendar.

A teacher, Folashade Kolawole, said the compulsion by the Lagos State Ministry of Education that all schools do observe the one-week break in the eighth week of the first term was unfair as most private schools usually have their mid-term in the seventh week.

According to Kolawole, “My school observes a week mid-term break every 7th week in each term. Since we resumed on the 13th of Sept, we observed our mid-term last week. But forcing schools to still go for an additional one week not minding if it was observed the previous week or not isn’t fair.”

Another teacher, Ogochukwu George, stated “Some private schools have been observing the one-week mid-term break and as usual they observed it on the 7th week.

What I don’t understand is why they were forced to observe another one week all in the name of unifying the calendar? At the end of the day, the school work still suffers and working-class parents have been affected adversely. I don’t think that being so stiff about the mid-term break with such schools was necessary.”

Impact of a two-week mid-term break on parents

 “As a parent, not a school owner, I strongly feel that this is a wrong time to go for one-week mid-term break. My children’s school observed a mid-term break last week and this week again making it two full weeks of idling at home,” a parent lamented.

Tolulope Olagunju said, “The government caused the confusion. The schools were to resume on the 13th of September, the government shifted the date to 5th September, only to later state the early resumption was for teachers training. While the private schools already started teaching the children from day one of resumption. From time immemorial first time is 12 and half weeks, or a maximum of 13 weeks. With this new norm. It is now 14 weeks for private schools.”

According to a teacher, Chigozie Onuoha Odion, the state government changed the time from 7th to 8th week to observe the mid-term break.

His words: “The private schools never ignored the calendar. Lagos State planned the mid-term break in the 7th week, private schools adhered to it only for the public schools to change it to the 8th week. Now some private schools are staying at home for two (2) whole weeks after parents have paid school fees and without consideration for time lost as a result of COVID-19.

Are private school owners guilty?

In his submission, Sunday Solanke explained that private schools owners are to be blamed for the alleged controversy in the time allocated to observe the break.

According to him: ” With due respect and humility, the private schools were among the committee members that sat with ministry officials to prepare the 2021 / 2022 academic calendar.

“They were the ones that requested for five days mid-teem holiday to be at par with the federal government.

Funmi George has this to say, “The unified term plan was released quite early before resumption. Since education is under the Concurrent List, states can also do policies on such matters. If school administrations have prepared their own term plans in line with government directives. After all, the second and third terms only have the usual two days.

On the need to adjust

Speaking on the need to adjust to change, especially as it concerns education, a teacher, Annie Blessing, said there was the need to re-strategise.

Her words:” The 2021/2022 academic calendar was released in July 2021. By then, our school calendar had been done and circulated. However, we always put a caveat that allows us to change dates at short notice.

“Immediately the government circular was passed, our mid-term break was adjusted to align with it. It’s not rocket science. We can not be teaching our pupils/students obedience and then be disobedient to the laws of the land. The government has control over the schools in its domain so I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Before we know it, one week will be over and everyone will go back to work well-rested and ready to put in their best.”

For the Director/School Administrator, Gloryville School, Ebute-Meta, Mrs Toyin Sode Idowu, a week-long midterm break was a welcome development, however, the timing was rather late.

Her words:” School owners should pay attention to details and not take things for granted. The calendar was circulated to us in July but many schools felt they could do just as they pleased.

“We should always be ready for change at any level. COVID-19 taught us that but appears we have forgotten. The midterm doesn’t have to always be two days. This term is quite long, having a week-long half-term isn’t so bad. The children are under immense pressure they need this rest. The school staff deserve a break too.  The only issue I have is that half-term coming in the 8th week is rather late. Immediately we resumed we practically jumped into exam mode. The half-term should have been last week.”

What is obtains in other climes?

Royal Emerald:” To be honest, the time of the announcement by the state government for mid-term is terrible and very late. Well, I’m not used to such short notices. A calendar released in July does not give enough time for planning for months like September etc. Imagine people who need to travel overseas for holidays, checkups.

“In the UK, presently, the whole 2021/2022 calendar is out, plus at least a term from 2022/2023 so people can plan their lives properly, and that’s why some people can book their holidays a year in advance.”

Supporting the above claim, a Nigerian teacher based overseas, Añike Agoke, said that an academic calendar was often released two years ahead.

Mrs Yinka Ogunde has this to say: “This is my own thought. Government must try to be more people-focused in the communication process. Yes, you provided the calendar but there are so many gaps to fill in between.

Time must be given for acceptance. People are used to two-day mid-term holidays. Changing it to one week is not something that must be done in a hurry or else we become autocratic.

“I also feel that as a school owner operating in Lagos State, you must constantly check the website of relevant government organizations and use social media platforms that are credible to get information.”

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