We can’t re-open schools until January, team tells Uhuru

The reality of children staying at home for six more months dawned on parents yesterday after education stakeholders put their foot down against hurried re-opening of schools.

Primary and secondary schools will therefore re-open in January next year unless President Uhuru Kenyatta vetoes the recommendation of Kenya’s top experts.

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions and Teacher Training Colleges (TTCs) will resume in September and October this year, respectively.

There is no universal date for re-opening of universities but those that act quickly to put in place measures to comply with the Ministry of Health (MoH) guidelines on the management of Covid-19 will be allowed to re-open immediately.

These are some of the recommendations that were unanimously agreed upon by education stakeholders yesterday after they met Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) in Nairobi.

Prof Magoha then presented the recommendations to President Kenyatta who is expected to make the final pronouncements on Monday next week.

He met with representatives of the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Kenya Parents Association (KPA), Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KESSHA), Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) and Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA).

“We have met today with key stakeholders on the way forward for our education sector. We have unanimously agreed on key recommendations on what should be done. The president will make some key announcements on these proposals on Monday,” Magoha said.

He said it is not feasible to re-open schools when Covid-19 infections are on the rise. “We have it on medical experts’ authority that the virus will peak in September and we don’t want to risk the lives of our children.

“In fact, parents represented by their union chairman Nicholas Maiyo have categorically said they will not release their children to schools until the curve is flattened.”

The KMPDU, through Dr Loise Ombajo, an infectious disease specialist who has been seconded to the Ministry of Education to work with it on schools’ re-opening, said it will be suicidal to open the institutions this year.

Sources within the meeting indicated that the participants agreed that the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations be postponed to next year.

The exams are likely to be sat at the end of next year after it emerged that it will be a Herculean task to synchronise the school calendar year when this year’s candidates are allowed to sit the tests in the middle of next year.

“The curriculum starts from where it stopped in March when all schools were closed and children sent home. This means the children will cover the last three weeks of first term they lost when schools closed,” the source said.

This means all learners will repeat classes and parents will have to pay fees from where they left. It emerged from the meeting that it will not be prudent to allow candidates to resume classes in September and sit their exams in May next year.

“If you paid Term One fees in full, you will be required to pay for the remaining two terms. But the Ministry of Education will advise parents on the correct steps to be taken, including those who owe schools or paid for the whole year,” the source said.

The issue of infrastructure and human resource in schools presented a nightmare as it requires a huge monetary investment to put up more classrooms and hire more teachers.

“It is difficult and costly to enforce some of the guidelines provided by WHO and Unicef like having 15 learners in a class, building classrooms and ensuring water, desks and sanitisers are in all schools,” a source said.

Universities now have to hit the ground running and put in place measures that meet the MoH guidelines on Covid-19 before they recall their students from the long holiday.

“The way lecture halls are structured in universities to accommodate a certain number of students won’t be changed in a day after government admitted it has no more cash to give the institutions,” a source said.

[The Writer is a 2019/2010 Bertha Fellow]

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