SCHOOLS AND COVID-19

Why secondary schools, teachers are prey to virus

So far, over 150 cases have been reported in secondary schools from the onset of November;

In Summary

• So too, 13 principals have reportedly succumbed to the virus according to data collected by the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association.

• One of the major challenges boarding schools have been grappling with is the habit of students sharing personal items.

Lamu Boys High School students when they reported back from a past holiday.
EDUCATION: Lamu Boys High School students when they reported back from a past holiday.
Image: FILE

Since the first phase of school reopening on October 12, secondary school students and teachers have emerged prey to Covid-19.

So far, over 150 cases have been reported in schools from the onset of November; but despite the reported cases, the true picture of infections in schools still remains unknown, a weak link being in the lack of proper testing in learning institutions.

The numbers of positive cases in schools are worrying after 52 students from Salvation Army Kolanya Boys High School tested positive.

 

In the first week of November, 68 students and five teachers tested positive for Covid-19 at Bahati Girls Secondary school in Nakuru County.

Last week, more than 12 students tested positive for Covid-19 in Chebiemit Boys Secondary school in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

So too, 13 principals have reportedly succumbed to the virus according to data collected by the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association.

Indimuli Kahi, the Kenya Secondary school Heads Association Chairman notes that one of the major challenges boarding schools have been grappling with is the habit of sharing personal items.

Kahi says that secondary school learners are in the habit of sharing personal effects such as utensils, toothpaste, soaps, buckets, and even uniforms.

This put them at risk of infection. The risk is intertwined to teachers who interact with the learners in classes, Kahi notes.

However, it’s interesting to note that that so far, reopening schools has not had much of a direct link to outbreaks.

 

“Schools have tried discouraging students from sharing any personal items… If this is achieved then we will be able to

However, he notes, maintaining vigilance is a hard task to achieve and in effect puts a high risk of learners being infected.

Kenya National Union of Teachers is of the opinion that the government must prepare better this time around for the reopening of schools in January.

“Teachers and learners will need to be protected from the virus and the government has to commit and provide masks for this purpose,” Sossion said.

He argues that in the current context, the masks and PPE are more important than the textbooks, and the capitation. The government should ensure the provision of adequate and quality masks.

“In the few weeks since the first reopening for candidates and Grade 4 students, teachers have reported a gap in the prevention of the virus occasioned by lack of proper discipline,” Sossion said.

"Learners are unprepared. They don’t know how to wear masks properly, they don’t know the importance of proper hand hygiene or other prevention protocols."

Schools also reopened for in-person learning with little to no additional guidance or support. This, Nicholas Maiyo notes has exposed the learners to the virus.

While the data on the number of learners and teachers with COVID-19 isn't perfect there are signs that schools open for in-person learning aren't driving increased infection rates.

Maiyo argues that learning institutions appear to be bearing the brunt of the spikes as some localities allow bars and restaurants to remain open for in-person dining as they also consider shuttering school buildings.

"We opened bars, we opened restaurants, and kids are paying a real price because we've been unwilling to make that sacrifice," he said. 

Maiyo notes that the crisis poses a bigger risk to public schools than any other place.

In his argument, Maiyo says there is a need to hire more teachers, provide protective gear and sanitization, and help students recover significant academic and social, and emotional learning loss.

Sossion who represents teachers union KNUT is of the thought that the government trains teachers properly before the schools reopen in January.

In his words, he argues that “the next frontier of the fight against Covid-19 will be won through education”.

He says the training should be of help to teachers and learners to understand the disease, the protocols, and how to handle the pandemic.

"This type of training is important because what teachers will be doing will be health management of the virus," Sossion said.