It’s too early to talk about re-opening schools for new term or final exams

EDITORIAL |

The question that is on top of every parent’s mind is when schools will open for the second term. The first term ended prematurely in March after Kenya recorded the first case of coronavirus. Since then schools have deployed a myriad of distance learning measures to make up for the lost time.

The country is still in the grip of the pandemic and it is evident the second term will not start on May 4, as earlier scheduled. To be sure, many parents are worried, and rightly so, that the pandemic has disrupted the school calendar and will impact candidates sitting final primary and secondary school examinations negatively.

The raft of distance learning measures have exposed inequalities between schools and regions, mirroring the income disparities that define the country’s socio-economic contours. In a sense, they seem to be working for a proportion of children while excluding many others who have no access to electricity, internet, television or computers, and whose parents are struggling to put food on the table. On this score alone, the much-touted distancing learning programme fails the test of equity and cannot pass for a fair medium of instruction for all Kenyan children whom the government owes a duty of care and the right to education.

On Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta was optimistic that national exams will not be disrupted, suggesting that in the worst case scenario schools will be reopened partially for candidates to prepare for final exams. What is not clear is how this will be executed given that most schools have now been turned into quarantine centres. Latest Covid-19 infection trends suggest that it might take quite a while for these temporary quarantine centres to be shut.

Perhaps it is time the government considered and publicised other options to completing the school calendar beyond the two national examinations.

The virus has disrupted and wiped out entire sectors and livelihoods in Europe and America, and there’s little to suggest Kenya will avoid the worst of the impacts. We don’t know when the cases will peak. We don’t know how resilient our institutions are. Any talk of reopening schools is premature.

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