We need more time to prepare, parents and teachers plead as next week reopening beckons

New Shamy School in Mombasa whose proprietor Shadrack Atick turned into a carpentry workshop since March. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Education stakeholders have called for more time to prepare adequately for schools reopening.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Tuesday announced the reopening of schools for Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four on Monday next week.

Parents, however, said yesterday that they were not ready to take their children back to school next week, while many head teachers were in limbo as the Ministry of Education is yet to disburse funds for preparations.

“I have four children; two in secondary and two in primary school. At the moment I am out of work after Covid-19 pandemic led to closure of my work place,” said Idd Ganzi, a hotel worker.

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Mvita Constituency Private Schools Association Secretary Fardoosa Wocha said majority of private schools on leased premises are yet to clear rent for the last six months and it is unlikely that they will be ready for school on Monday.

“We had hoped for a government stimulus programme that would have cushioned private schools and help them start off when the economy fully opens. There is nothing forthcoming and our biggest revenue earner is the school fees that students pay,” said Wocha.

The New Shamy School in Mombasa town, for example, was turned into a carpentry workshop after the 340 learners were sent home in March, following the outbreak of Covid-19 in Kenya.

“I pay a monthly rent of Sh80,000 to the owner of this school building. And with no source of income since schools were closed, I had to look for alternative means to stay afloat,” said Shadrack Atick, New Shamy School proprietor.

Atick said they have no problem meeting some of the Health Ministry protocols and education guidelines, but fear that parents might not send their children to school due to lack of money.

“Majority of parents travelled upcountry with their children and were banking on coming back in January 2021,” he said.

In the North Rift, school heads are worried about poor preparation and lack of funds.

Some headteachers told The Standard that most schools do not have food and resources to enable them adjust to the Covid-19 protocols.

The new desks that the government was to provide to some schools, are yet to be distributed, with education officials saying the exercise will begin next week as learners report to school.

Some schools reportedly disposed of food staples – maize and beans – during the seven-month break owing to poor storage, and head teachers are at a loss on what the students will eat when they report back.

“Our board of management resolved that maize stocks be disposed of since it was wasting away. Proceeds were then used to pay subordinate staff and buy water tanks for handwashing,” said a head teacher.

Another principal said it will be a tall order for schools to operate if they reopen before the government disburses free education funds and equip them in line with Covid-19 protocols.

“Some parents have started calling, saying they are ill-prepared for reopening because they had expected it to be January next year,” the principal said.

“The government had promised to release Sh500 per student for Covid-19 preparedness and even issued circulars, but the funds are yet to be reflected in our accounts. Only funds for Board of Management (BOM) teachers was released.”

Nandi County Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Chairman Paul Rotich said teachers were ready to go back to class but expressed concerns over lack of personal protective equipment and poor infrastructure.

A headteacher said they are incapacitated and may not achieve government required standards to prevent Covid-19 infection risks.

“The government has pushed issuance of face masks and buying of thermoguns to parents who were not expecting the added responsibility. Social distancing will also demand hiring more teachers,” said the principal.

He said his school uses boreholes and they will improvise jerricans and taps to facilitate handwashing.

In Turbo Constituency, Uasin Gishu County, 15 primary schools will get 70 new desks each while 15 secondary schools will each receive a pair of 63 chairs and lockers in the furniture distribution funded by the government.

Kuyo ole Saoinah, the Turbo Sub-county Director of Education, said State agencies, including procurement, education, public works, interior and youth participated in identifying workshops with the capacity to produce desks, lockers and chairs.

Nandi County Director of Education Willie Machocho said, “Social distancing will be effectively handled since only candidates are expected to report on Monday. They will use existing desks, chairs and lockers from other classes as they wait for the additional ones from next week.”

Machocho said emerging issues will be addressed once the phased reopening starts.

His Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Masibo Kituyi said 61 primary schools are set to get 70 desks each and 73 secondary schools will each receive 50 pairs of a chair and a locker.

Across Mt Kenya, most public schools are facing challenges in buying key items such as thermoguns, sanitisers and soap due to lack of funds.

Amenities such as water and electricity have been disconnected after non-payment of bills since April when the schools were closed.

The situation has left administrators unable to start preparations to facilitate safe learning.

Githwariga Primary School headteacher Jackline Gichuru said teachers had mapped out needs of the school for reopening.

“Since only two classes are resuming learning, we have enough space to ensure social distancing and accommodate the students. The teachers are ready to teach,” she said.

However, financial constraints on the school have made it difficult to purchase some items crucial to keeping students and teachers safe from coronavirus.

“We need to purchase thermoguns so we can check the temperature of pupils as we admit them into the school and we currently do not have funds,” Ms Gichuru said.

She said the school still had access to water and electricity, but would require more sanitisers and soap to encourage handwashing.

[Philip Mwakio, Lydiah Nyawira and Titus Too]

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