GOVERNMENT schools in Bahrain could soon have two shifts if a proposal by a councillor is approved.
Muharraq Municipal Council chairman Mohammed Buhamood said that was the only solution to overcome the problem of overcrowded classrooms.
Such a move could also address the Education Ministry’s dilemma about shortage of funds for construction and expansion projects.
However, a ministry official told the GDN yesterday that the cost of having an evening shift would be much higher than building new schools or expanding the existing ones.
The proposal would lead to increased spending on manpower, administration and education besides support and transportation.
Present at yesterday’s weekly council meeting were the ministry’s assistant under-secretary for planning and information Nawal Al Khater and educational projects and planning director Dr Shaikha Mofeez who showcased existing projects and plans for the coming years.
There are currently 150,000 students in government schools, and 90,000 in private schools.
“There are nearly 40 students per classroom,” said Mr Buhamood.
“I don’t see it as a healthy educational environment with teachers failing to gain control of the class, or students being unable to concentrate.
“The ministry has already started phasing out portable cabins in line with a Cabinet decision, so more students are now being accommodated inside the buildings.
“Only 10 new schools are under construction or have been constructed in line with the four-year Government Action Plan, which ends in December this year.
“I don’t believe they are enough to handle the influx of new students, with an average 10,000 students joining schools every year.
“There is a huge shortage in projects financing due to a drop in oil revenues and with austerity measures things are being carried out according to the highest priority.”
The veteran councillor said having morning and evening shifts would be cheaper and cut the waiting period for new schools or expansions.
“A small number of students could be moved to the evening shift, managed by a small faculty.
“It will be technically two schools sharing a building that lies empty in the evenings anyway.”
Ms Al Khater said available funds were barely enough to meet the ministry’s plans.
“We have a futuristic vision, to provide excellent education in line with best international standards, but the current funding levels are hindering our plans.
“We had plans for new schools and expansions last year and this year, but the amount given to us is not enough, and we had to wait until the 2019-2020 budget, which we are currently preparing in line with directions to draw up the new four-year Government Action Plan.”
Dr Mofeez said plans for new schools take at least 10 years in procedures and approvals from the government.
“The ministry is in control of the situation related to the increase in student numbers with problems being addressed as they come.”
Councillor Khalid Qambar said the ministry’s planning of new schools and expansions was ridiculous and illogical with no study being conducted on location or traffic congestion.
“New schools are built in highly crowded residential areas and expansions to existing schools are being done despite no adequate car parks or spaces available with faculty and parents parking in front of homes, which is causing numerous fights regularly.”