Teachers upbeat despite low turnout of students as learning resumes

Olympic Primary School Grade Four pupils are taken through a lesson by their teacher Salome Olando when the schools reopened after Covid-19 pandemic on October 12, 2020. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Low turnout marked the first day of resumption of learning after six months hiatus following the Covid-19 outbreak.

Some parents kept their children at home despite the directive by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha that Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four candidates return to school. 

Most parents who The Standard talked to argued that the vulnerability of pupils, especially those in Grade Four who may not effectively observe Covid-19 protocols posed a huge health risk. This could have caused many not to release their children.

A spot check indicated that some schools had difficulties ensuring social distance, while others were yet to set up adequate handwashing points.

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Some students reported without masks and schools made arrangements to provide the same.

Response team

The magnitude of the challenge of allowing all students to report during the pandemic and with the requirement to observe social distance was laid bare as school managers were already grappling to accommodate those who reported in the available classrooms.

Some schools reported that most classes were occupied and admitted that it would be a big challenge if all learners were to resume classes.   

Before entry and registration, the parents and learners went through mandatory checks as per the Ministry of Health guidelines.

“I came first to check on the safety of my child. I had to be satisfied that sufficient measures have been put in place for their protection. I am convinced that schools are prepared for physical learning,” said Aggrey Ngwendo, a father of a Grade Four pupil at Kakamega Primary School.

At the school, 329 out of 377 Class Eight candidates had reported, while the majority of the Grade Four pupils were absent.

Deputy Head Teacher Vincent Tibis attributed the low numbers to fear by parents and lack of sanitisers.

“We have set aside an isolation room; in case learners are suspected to be sick, we shall have no problems. We also have a Covid-19 response team that keeps a daily record of health of learners. We have set aside five streams for each class for learning,” said Tibis.

At Fesbeth Academy, a private school, most Grade Four pupils did not report.

Low turnout was also recorded in Kiambu. At Ngenda Primary School in Gatundu South, only 40 of the 160 Class Eight candidates reported while 30 out of 50 Grade Four learners turned up.

Headteacher Elizabeth Maina said most pupils who reported had masks but expressed fears that the facilities were likely to be strained once all students resume classes.

“We are well prepared as we reopen, but if all the 160 Class Eight pupils return to school we will be forced to take other four classes to ensure social distancing in the four streams,” said Maina.

She said the school will require 17 more classes once all pupils resume learning, with the school hall already turned into a dormitory.

Kiamwangi MCA Robert Kibe distributed 10,000 masks and sanitisers to schools in the ward and embarked on a campaign to encourage parents to allow their children to go to school.

Schools in Nyanza recorded relatively high turnout.

A spot check by The Standard revealed that a number of schools recorded up to 80 per cent turnout, with teachers having a hard time implementing the social distance rule.

In M M Shah Primary School, Kisumu Central, 256 out of 326 candidates reported. Headteacher Michael Oriedi said they were able to place all the learners in classes, ready for the resumption of lessons.

“We had been using four classes for the candidates, but today we are using six in order to maintain social distance. We will need four more when all the candidates report back to school,” he said. Oriedi said about 50 pupils turned up without masks, but a well-wisher provided the same.

At Venma Academy in Kisumu West, 15 out of the 20 candidates reported to school.

“We have enough space, and all our students are fitting well in one classroom,” said School Head Wilson Onjolo.

All the schools had handwashing points and thermo guns to check the temperature of students.

County Director of Education Isaac Atebe said the turnout was good and his officers were out to ensure compliance with Covid-19 protocols.

“We have not recorded any major challenges up to now, and we are encouraged by the turnout. We can only quantify the percentage once we have all the figures from the schools,” he said.

In Homa Bay County, a number of primary schools face challenges of space to ensure social distance.

At Shauri Yako Primary School, for instance, Class Eight candidates and Grade Four pupils occupied 14 classrooms out of the available 24.

At Homa Bay Primary School, there was a challenge of hand washing facilities.

School head teacher Joseph Obunga said they will consult with parents on how to acquire more facilities.

“Shortage of hand washing facilities is a problem in our school. We are contemplating how to engage parents to acquire them,” Obunga said.

In Nyamira, public schools recorded high turnout compared to private schools.

At Egesieri, Nyamira, Nyamwetureko and Ibucha primary schools, all learners reported and all the teachers were present.

Class Eight candidates were optimistic that they will complete the academic calendar without interruptions.

However, some of the major private schools in the region registered a low turnout of learners with management hoping all students will report by Wednesday.

At Royal Metropolitan Academy in Nyamira Town, by 1pm, no pupil had reported to the school, but headteacher Samuel Ondieki said the opening schedule was communicated to parents and he was expecting that by close of yesterday, a good number of the learners would have turned up.

“We understand this is a boarding school and parents need to plan adequately for the return of their children to school. We hope to have full numbers by end of today (Monday),” said Ondieki.

By yesterday, the school workers were putting final touches on handwashing points, painting the facility as well as doing general cleanliness.

At St George’s Boarding Primary, the gates remained closed. Parents confided in The Standard that the school management had communicated to them that they will reopen on Wednesday when all necessary measures have been put in place.

In Mombasa County, learning started in earnest as teachers and students moved to recover lost time.

At the Allidina Visram High School, there were last-minute efforts to increase handwashing points as Form Four candidates trooped back to class.

The teacher on duty, Milcah Wanjiku, said 80 per cent of Form Four candidates had reported.

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