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Schools should resume amid virus to avert damage to learners

WHO says delay in reopening may impact negatively on the learners. Students are turning to drugs and other vices.

In Summary

• There are claims of female genital mutilation in the villlages, child marriage, increase of pregnancies. 

• Uhuru called on the Ministry of Education to engage with other stakeholders with the view of developing parameters that will govern the reopening of schools. 

Hungry pupils and parents with bags of maize and beans donated by Childcare Society to Loyeya Primary School in Tiaty, Baringo county.
THOSE IN PROGRAMME STARVING: Hungry pupils and parents with bags of maize and beans donated by Childcare Society to Loyeya Primary School in Tiaty, Baringo county.
Image: JOSEPH KANGOGO

Learning in Kenyan schools and institutions of higher learning was suspended in March over the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Uhuru Kenyatta explained that it was aimed at stemming the spread of the virus that has infected over 30,000 people in a span of over five months. Suspension of the academic calendar was greeted with mixed reactions; with parents, teachers and learners expressing fear of losses.

Students have now been at home for more than five months and the damage to the learners has been severe. There are claims of female genital mutilation in the villlages, child marriage, increase of pregnancies, students engaging in crimes, and child labour among others.

In his last presidential address on the country's situation, Uhuru called on the Ministry of Education to engage with other stakeholders with the view of developing parameters that will govern the reopening of schools.

There are parameters which can be used in schools to reduce infection as learners continue with their education.Schools, colleges and universities can go in turns. Each class could learn between twice or three times a week. Standards 1-3 could learn on Monday and Wednesday, Standards 4,5 and 6 on Tuesday and Thursday while Standards 7 and 8 could learn on Friday and Saturday.

Universities can access classes according to schools from Monday to Friday. The CS has been moving around the country to assess the preparedness of schools to reopen. Learning has to go on. In the latest update on coronavirus from the World Health organization, African states whose schools closed were advised to facilitate reopening of schools amid the virus.

WHO added that further delay in reopening may impact negatively on the learners. Students are turning to drugs and other vices. Parents should prepare for serious cases of school dropouts next year. With sex predators all around, the fear is especially real for parents with daughters in their households. Primary and secondary school learners, estimated to be more than 15 million, will repeat classes when schools reopen in January.

Cabinet Secretary George Magoha cancelled this year’s KCPE and KCSE tests that were to begin in October as he declared 2020 a lost academic year.

Parents will also lose part of the school fees that they had paid in first term. Teachers of private schools and those under the boards of management in public schools are likely to miss their pay for the remainder of the year. This is the first time in Kenyan history that the school calendar has been disrupted completely.

The closure of institutions will create a backlog in education in Kenya. According to ​ the WHO, the impact of an extended education disruption is significant and stretches beyond learning institutions into homes.

In Eastern and Southern Africa, UNICEF has noted increased violence against children, with reduced nutrition rates as more than 10 million are missing school meals. Let schools and institutions be opened and follow the laid down restrictions given for the safety of learners and staff.

 

PhD student, Mount Kenya University