Sossion warns Magoha on push to reopen schools in June

'It is better to lose a whole academic year than to lose life'

In Summary

• Sossion is worried by the poor state of public schools, their huge populations, poor hygiene and infrastructure.

• He says the planned reopening of the institutions is premature and needs critical evaluation.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers has warned of grave consequences that schools face if they are reopened next month.

The planned reopening of the institutions is premature and needs critical evaluation, Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion said on Thursday.

"I don't think it will be a wise idea to compel resumption on learning mainly because exams have to be done and because we think we have to promote students to the next level," Sossion told the Star.


Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha last week appointed a nine-member team to craft a roadmap on the possible resumption of school operations.

The schools have been shut since March 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sossion said Knut will not take part in the quest for answers on the reopening of schools allegedly because it, and other key stakeholders were alienated during the team's formation.

Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta also hinted on the possibility of partial schools reopening in June and dismissed speculation that KCPE and KCSE exams might be cancelled.

Sossion maintains that the reopening should be done only on expert advice.

"We must invite experts' advice based on the prevailing situation. It will be fundamentally wrong at this time for anybody to predict and propose a date of reopening of schools.

"The virus might be with us for long and we cannot invite it to kill us. There are already guidelines to prevent the spread. Reopening of schools will complicate such measures," he said.


Sossion cites the poor state of public primary and secondary learning institutions and their huge populations, poor and overstretched infrastructure.

He doubted the government's ability to ensure safety guidelines in such a situation.

According to the unionist, the guidelines released by the World Health Organisation should give the green light to reopen learning institutions.

The guidelines, which were released in March and titled "Guidance for Schools, Workplace and Institutions", note that basic prevention measures used to contain coronavirus spread can help keep students, teachers and other staff safe.

WHO recommends that sick students, teachers and other staff should not go to school.

It says schools must provide water, sanitation and waste management facilities to ensure hygiene.

Other measures include limiting large groups of people, social distancing and disinfection of surfaces.

Knut doubts the ability of the government to meet the requirements, with schools being in a deplorable state.

As they currently are, schools can barely implement social distancing, Sossion says.

"The ministry came up with the 100 per cent transition without planning. Now the classes and dorms are congested. If we are to resume in June, we have to reconsider completely to address this issue," he said.

To protect learners, the government will need to reconfigure the sitting arrangement and substantially reduce class sizes, the Knut boss said.

The government will further need to provide personal protective equipment to teachers and workers.

The union called for psycho-social support for learners and teachers to help them cope with the trauma arising from the pandemic.

"We have to psychologically be prepared to stay with our children longer if that is necessary, even if it means skipping school for a whole year so that we can resume  when the virus is contained.

"It is better to lose a whole academic year than to lose life," Sossion said.


- mwaniki fm