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PROBLEMS AND BLESSING IN DISGUISE

What Magoha order means for schools, learners, teachers

2020 calendar aborted, learners pushed a class back when schools reopen in January.

In Summary

• It will be the first time in since the inception of the 30-year-old KCPE, KCSE exams that they will not be taking place.

• In effect, the decision will mean no intake in Grade1, Form 1 and Preprimary 1, all of all which take place in January each year.

Education CS George Magoha and PS Belio Kipsang during a press briefing on extended school closure and the new academic calendar as a result of Covid-19, held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Studies in Nairobi on July 8.
NO SCHOOL: Education CS George Magoha and PS Belio Kipsang during a press briefing on extended school closure and the new academic calendar as a result of Covid-19, held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Studies in Nairobi on July 8.
Image: WILFRED NYANGARESI

After weeks of brainstorming, Education CS George Magoha on Tuesday announced 2020 is virtually wiped off the education calendar.

Every student in primary and secondary school will have to consider 2020 as one long painful break due to the coronavirus.

Magoha, however, said universities and technical colleges were free to open in September on condition they take all measures to protect students from the spread of Covid-19.

“All learners in Grades 1 to 4, Standard 5 to 7 in 2020 and Forms 1 to 3 in 2020, will remain in their current classes in 2021… This year’s KCPE, KCSE candidates will sit their examination later in 2021,” Magoha said.

The CS spoke at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and termed the extended closure decision unanimous.

Among those present and favouring the new development were representatives of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, the parents’ association, school heads, private schools, university representatives and the Teachers Service Commission.

The proposal to reopen in September was part of the initial recommendations to President Uhuru Kenyatta by a team established by Magoha in May.

But this was quickly followed by a second recommendation in June, instead favouring reopening in January 2021.

It will be the first time since the inception of the 30-year-old KCPE and KCSE tests that they will not be taking place.

The ripple effects of this will see those currently in primary school spend nine years and those in secondary spend five years in classrooms.

In effect, the decision will mean no intake in Grade 1, Form 1 and Preprimary 1, all which take place in January each year.

Universities, colleges and technical institutions will also miss their annual intake in 2021.

Also thrown into disarray is the implementation of the new curriculum that should be moving to Grade 5 in 2020 and key programmes such as the school feeding programme and provision of sanitary towels.

The no-school decision also opens a troubled future for some vulnerable children, exposing them to drug abuse, teen pregnancies, FGM and early marriages.

Nicholas Maiyo, chairman of the Kenya Parents Association, says the situation will worsen unless swift action is taken.

He criticised the amicable solutions reached between perpetrators of defilement and other offences and victims’ families.

“There are people who are responsible for child abuse, labour, violence and even selling drugs to our children and we want them brought to book… The issue of kangaroo courts should be completely eliminated for the safety of our children,” Maiyo said.

To keep the learners engaged, he said the association is working on how to develop viable out-of-class learning that can suit all learners.

“We are reaching out to partners like Safaricom, Google, KICD and others to see how best we can ensure our children continue their education at home and keep them off harmful practices,” Maiyo said.

No salaries

So too, the extension of school closure signals a fresh struggle for teachers in private school and those contracted in public schools by the Boards of Management who are counting three months of no salary. That’s because salaries are largely paid by school fees.

For them, the school shuttering means six more months of no pay, which does not sit well with the Kenya Private Schools Association.

Peter Ndoro, the association's chief executive, on Tuesday said the institutions have not been able to pay salaries since April. Other are backdating salaries to March.

“We solely depend on school fees and in the absence of them we have no source of revenue. At the moment, almost all schools have stopped paying their staff,” Ndoro said.

However, he said consultations are underway for government assistance to provide its members a package to sustain their basic requirements in the shutdown period.

The extended closure also indicates the government’s plan to ensure the safety of learners and quality of learning in schools before January.

With six months left and an untouched budget, Indimuli Kahi, chairman of the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association, says the decision will be a blessing in disguise for public schools faced with serious problems, even before the advent of coronavirus.

He told the Star the government could use this time to ensure all schools have proper infrastructure and all teachers are paid.

Kahi, who is also the principal of Machakos Boys Secondary School, on Tuesday said the focus should now be shifted to developing huge infrastructure to accommodate the ever-growing numbers in schools.

“If we look at the situation from a different angle, you will realise the big chance for government to correct recurring challenges of poor infrastructure,” Kahi said.

He suggests that monies meant for capitation and other programmes targeting learners can be reallocated to development of the institutions.

"Secondary schools will be bracing for a double intake under the new curriculum and this will need huge resources to prepare for."

Akello Misori, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers secretary general, cited a big mismatch between the capacity of boarding facilities and number of students admitted.

Expanding the learning and boarding facilities, in his view, will ensure the health and safety of the learners upon reopening.

“Space in the boarding areas is very limited, most schools depend on triple-decker beds. Water has also been a problem and these areas need to be looked at… Also we need to recruit and employ new teachers,” Misori said.

He told the Star the government needs to consider a stimulus package for private schools and their teachers.

“We have asked the government to extend the economic stimulus package to the BoM and private school teachers because moving forward, they will be very critical in ensuring they fill teacher shortfalls.”

National Assembly Education Committee acting chairman Malulu Injendi said this “new beginning” will place children with limited or no access to remote learning back on generally equal footing with those who can afford it.

“It hurts, but it is the most sensible way forward at this time when Kenya is yet to reach the peak of the pandemic and modes of infection are still hazy,” Injendi said.

Upon reopening, schools and learning institutions will be required to reduce physical contact by having fewer learners.

Schools will be required to ensure intense hand washing with soap and/or the use of hand sanitiser, wearing of masks and measuring of staff and learners’ body temperature.