PROPOSE CALENDAR REVIEW

Headteachers want schools reopened in September

Primary school heads say KCPE and KCSE exams should be done in July 2021.

In Summary

• If adopted, term two will begin in January and end in April, while the third term will run from May to July.

• Kepsha says school operations should resume in September and continue for two months to recover time lost in the first term.

Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion and Kepsha national chairman Nicholas Gathemia at the Kenya School of Revenue Administration in Mombasa on Monday, December 2, 2019.
Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion and Kepsha national chairman Nicholas Gathemia at the Kenya School of Revenue Administration in Mombasa on Monday, December 2, 2019.
Image: BRIAN OTIENO

Primary school heads want the school annual calendar revised and KCPE and KCSE exams postponed.

Through the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) they have expressed reservations about reopening of schools amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.  

Schools remain closed in the country since March 15. A one-month shutdown extension expires on June 4. 

The government has yet to give the way forward and will depend on recommendations of a committee formed by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

The team will come up with a back-to-school roadmap and advise accordingly.

On Wednesday, however, Kepsha told the Covid-19 Education Response Committee that schools should be closed for another three months.

In its view, school operations should resume in September and continue for two months to recover time lost in the first term.

Subsequently, term two will begin in January 2021 up to April the same year, and the third term run from May to July.

"KCPE, KCSE, and all other Knec national exams be done in July 2021 and every year," they said in their submission.

However, the proposal contrasts that of their secondary school counterparts and other education players such as the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), which backed partial reopening.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also hinted at a partial reopening in his fifth address to the nation on the coronavirus.

Kuppet, in its proposal to the committee, backed a phased reopening of learning institutions. It wants the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education candidates to report first for a month-long assessment that will inform subsequent reopening.

"We believe that the next four weeks are sufficient for the government to enact and publish guidelines for the partial reopening that fits our context," it said.

The memorandum was dated May 20 and acknowledged by deputy secretary general Moses Nthurima.

"Ahead of any such reopening, we recommend the constitution of a broad-based task force to oversee such decisions and draw a national action plan," it said, adding that the team should bring on board teachers’ unions, independent medical professionals and civil society actors, among other stakeholders. 

Traditionally, the school calendar runs from January to December, with three breaks in April, August and December.

The headteachers have expressed concern over the potential harm an outbreak would mean for the country if children return to school. They say that with about 15 million children in primary and secondary schools, a coronavirus outbreak in such institutions would lead to a general spike in infection.

"Should there be an outbreak, children will, in turn, infect their parents and in a matter of days, the virus will close in on the geographical locations yet to register any positive case," Kepsha says.

The association says the long closure should be used to improve school infrastructure to meet the one-metre social distancing rule in classrooms.

They also propose government use part of the funds pooled for the war on Covid-19 to help schools manage the virus from within once reopened.

"Source for more funding from Unicef, the WHO, the World Bank, the US, China, Bill Gates and Jack Ma and allocate Sh5 million to each public learning institution to mitigate the effects of the pandemic," the submission reads.

The association also wants teachers posted within their home areas to avoid the spread of the virus from the hotspots before reopening. This is against a recent policy change by the Teachers Service Commission that demands that teachers be deployed outside their home areas.

The Kepsha proposal has received the backing of parents. Kenya Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said schools face a unique challenge of congestion that could spell doom should they resume learning before the virus is contained.

"These learners mingle in classes, in dormitories and in the field for co-curricular activities. Covid-19 being a communicable disease, the current set up in schools put children to high vulnerability and risk," Maiyo said. 

 

(Edited by F'Orieny)