Teachers a worried lot as schools set to reopen

As schools reopen today, teachers and learners have a lot to worry about.

It’s a cocktail of concerns, which observers believe could have been avoided had leaders at the the Ministry of Education been reasonable and done adequate consultations.

The fact that the reopening was done on short notice and is coupled by a spike in Covid-19 infections doesn’t make matters any better.

Inadequate funds, poor sub-county coordination and lack of personal protective equipment are some of the issues teachers have to deal with as schools reopen today.

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Apart from the October 6, 2020 circular with guidelines of how face to face learning will resume, The Standard has been informed that teachers have not been issued with further guidelines on how to protect themselves.

Among many other worries, teachers are concerned with how they will access personal protective equipment (PPE).

Neither the Ministry of Education nor that of Health have provided the PPE, yet the schools are mandated to have isolation areas for suspected cases.

Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) chair Nicholas Gathemia said apart from the capitation sent to schools last week, no additional funds have been provided for these necessities.

Social distancing

Additionally, he says, the guidelines issued through the October 6 circular signed by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha needed to be interpreted further.

“We needed sessions with experts on the behaviour of the virus for awareness of the teachers, but this was not done. The only information we have of the virus is from the media and what the circular shared,” he said.

In the circular, Magoha directed use of face masks, monitoring body temperatures, installation of handwashing points, or sanitisers for institutions without running water.

Social distancing should also be implemented and school heads will also create separate rooms for isolation of suspected cases before they are transferred to a health facility.

“All schools should be linked to the nearest public health facility prior to being re-opened,” reads the guidelines. “Ensure there is a designated room within the institution premises for use as a sick bay or for temporary isolation in case presumed cases occur in institutions.”

Gathemia says while all this has been done, how teachers will handle the suspected cases as they wait for ambulances is not clear.

Protective equipment

For boarding schools, sick bays or sanatoriums are manned by healthcare workers – mostly a nurse or clinical officer. However, for day schools, where most primary schools fall, it is not clear who will be manning these isolation rooms.

If a teacher is to volunteer, then Gathemia says there is no training or the necessary protective equipment to do so.

An earlier report dated September 28 indicates that county hotlines for Covid-19 surveillance are not being responded to.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha shocked teachers and parents last week with a six-day window to prepare for reopening.

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