COVID-19

Are we prepared for schools reopening?

We should care that students are among vulnerable groups that need protection

In Summary

• One of the key lessons from this pandemic is that being a poor country can be very dangerous.

• Africa may have survived the worst of the pandemic but this is as far as the story goes.

Lessons at Mwingi Primary School on Monday, October 12, for the first reopening, a test run.
REOPENING: Lessons at Mwingi Primary School on Monday, October 12, for the first reopening, a test run.
Image: LINAH MUSANGI

Schools are set to fully reopen on January 4, 2021 — a few weeks from now — but how prepared are we in the face of rising Covid-19 cases?

We have vaccines and it has been reported that Kenya has made orders but is the government prepared to distribute and ensure fast and maximum vaccination within a short time?

One of the key lessons from this pandemic is that being a poor country can be very dangerous. Africa may have survived the worst of the pandemic but this is as far as the story goes.

There are many factors said to explain this 'luck',  and they are a bit soothing for the time being but we can’t be sure we can survive such destructive diseases in the future.

The scare is that with schools reopening next mon, there will be more movement of people, more interactions thus more infections.

In addition, congestion has always been a challenge in Kenyan schools, especially the public ones. How do we make sure that we don’t expose students to infections in this set-up?

We agree that schools have to reopen as we can’t close them forever. Already, a lot of learning time has been lost. We did make some good attempts at the online classes but due to infrastructure challenges and the inequalities of access, it was not successful.

It also risked creating more inequality in society due to different levels of economic well-being and access to computers.

That notwithstanding, we have to be alive to the fact that we have a challenge before Covid-19 is stopped. If what is happening in the West is anything to go by, we are far from  out of the woods.

Some countries have gone back to lockdowns such as the UK and many countries are warning their citizens of potential lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. 

We should also be alive to the fact that corruption is rife in the country. Scandals are always happening. We have seen cases of corruption happening even in the most of desperate of situations, including during Covid-19.

If we open schools and we do monkey business with the vaccines and other preventive measures, we will be doomed.

We should care that students are among vulnerable groups that need protection. Their immunity maybe better than that of older groups, they may be asymptomatic but they can spread the virus.

We have seen cases of not-so-old people severely affected by Covid-19.

Moreover, we are not yet fully clear on the long-term effects of the disease; there is so-called long Covid. So even immediate recovery is no assurance of long-term health.

So we must do whatever has to be done to make the students, teachers, parents and the entire public safe.

Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda is a political, economic and social analyst and commentator