EXPERT OPINION

Why top psychiatrist does not support community learning

Advises life skills should be taught by trained community health workers

In Summary

•Dr Kumantha said gathering under a tree or social hall with an unfamiliar teacher may not be a substitute for a school in the mind of the pupil.

•Life skills including awareness of the negative consequences of drug abuse should be taught by trained community health workers

Psychiatrist Dr Njagi Kumantha wants schools reopened gradually.
EXPERT: Psychiatrist Dr Njagi Kumantha wants schools reopened gradually.

A leading psychiatrist has faulted the proposed community-based learning saying it is unlikely to break the growing tide of anti-social behaviour in children. 

The Ministry of Education has clarified that CBL is not meant to cover the normal curriculum or syllabus but to engage learners to gain good personal habits, competencies, skills and values.

The life skills will be taught by teachers residing in the neighborhood.

 
 

However, Dr Njagi Kumantha, a Nairobi-based psychiatrist and health systems expert, says this is not achievable in the current setting. 

"This may sound okey but in practice it may not yield the desired results. To start with, teachers will find themselves in very unfamiliar territory because they are trained to teach and install discipline and not to do social work. Students associate learning with schools and their teachers," he told The Star.

Dr Kumantha said gathering under a tree or social hall with an unfamiliar teacher may not be a substitute for a school in the mind of the pupil.

He said life skills including awareness of the negative consequences of drug abuse should be taught by trained community health workers.

Students associate learning with schools and their teachers"
Dr Njagi Kumantha

He instead called for a phased reopening of schools for the normal curriculum. 

"Kenya has many day schools which can be reopened in early September, 2020, on condition they observe the social distancing guidelines, hand washing/sanitation and wearing of face masks," he said.

"They should be taught by the teachers who used to teach them before the schools' lockdown. The class teacher should continue with the syllabus from where they stopped in March."

 

On Wednesday, Justice James Makau has temporarily stopped Education CS George Magoha from implementing the CBL following an urgent a case filed by a parent. 

Joseph Aura, the parent, argued that since the state ordered for closure of schools due to Covid-19 in March, his children and others across the country have been at home indefinitely.

He also wanted the CS compelled to reopen schools for third term.

“I have lodged these proceedings as a parent on behalf of my children and on behalf of millions of voiceless children enrolled similarly in learning institutions across the country,” Aura says.

Under CBL, children would learn under trees and other public places.
Under CBL, children would learn under trees and other public places.

The father of three says in-person learning is the best when it comes to the education of children rather than virtual or any other method.

Aura wants the court to order Magoha reopen all schools from September this year for the next academic term.

“The oppressive psychological and mental torture inflicted on the school going children because of the open-ended closure of schools effected by the ministry from March till now has gravely injured them,” reads the court documents.

The case will be mentioned on September 9.

According to the MoE, children in primari schools would be taught life skills and values, health and fitness, learning area activities, environment and sanitation.

Secondary schools will cover eight topics; Citizenship, Environment, Creative Arts, Languages, Games and Fitness, Life skills, Home science, Mathematics and Financial Literacy.