Covid 19: Teachers’ dilemma as Form Ones join schools

NATIONAL |

Students waiting to board matatu's to travel back to School at Accra road in Nairobi on July 27, 2021.[Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

About one million children report to secondary schools today, stretching the existing classrooms, and raising teachers’ fears over Covid-19 management in a crowded learning environment.

The children who had stayed at home with their parents for a whole term will today report to schools at a time when coronavirus infections are going up.

Parents will also contend with short terms under the squeezed school calendar with about one week holiday.

Buoyed by the drive to complete the school year to transition to the next classes, the children will troop back to classes full of hope but oblivious to the risks that may come with full resumption to in-person learning.

With capitation money for this academic year delayed, principals have also cautioned that parents must pay fees to enable them to run schools.

Basic Education PS Jwan Julius said the ministry already made an Sh20.5 billion requisition for both primary and secondary schools.

Of this, Sh14.5 billion will cater to secondary schools. However, this will not cater for Form One students as their budget will be factored in once they report to schools. The remaining Sh6 billion will be sent to primary schools. The PS said communication has already been released for schools to upload the number of Form Ones who have reported to accelerate the computation of capitation.

Utilise last tranche

However, Jwan said school heads will be required to utilise the last tranche of last year’s third term money sent to them three weeks ago.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) national chairman Kahi Indimuli said continuing children must clear all fees arrears and also pleaded with parents to pay fees for the new students.

“Let us not pretend, fees must be paid if we expect schools to run normally,” said Indimuli.

National parents association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo said parents would pay fees but warned that they will not pay unnecessary levies.

“We shall pay fees but we shall not pay additional levies not listed in the fees guidelines,” said Maiyo.

“We know some of the levies have been hidden or given some names for camouflage and are not even receipted. As parents we have said that we shall not pay such,” said Maiyo.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said fees were reviewed downwards following the Covid-19 pandemic that affected the school calendar with the academic year reduced by nine weeks.

“Based on this and in consultation with the president we agreed to reduce the fees chargeable in schools,” said Magoha.

He said National schools will charge fees less Sh8,500.  And the rest of the schools will charge fees less than Sh5,500.

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Nancy Macharia has said school heads found culpable for charging additional levies or flouting fees guidelines will be punished.

Stipulated school fees

“I direct all that all heads of school to stick to stipulated school fees and avoid loading parents with unnecessary levies,” said Dr Macharia.

Those joining Form One will only be allowed admission to schools they have been placed in and their details captured under the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS).

Paul Kibet, the secondary and tertiary education director at the ministry of Education told parents to ensure their children are admitted to the schools they were placed in.

“For those who made changes, they must ensure that the details are captured in NEMIS. Principals must also only accept students whose details have been captured in the system,” said Kibet.

But it’s the 340,000 teachers who will bear the greatest burden of ensuring children stay safe, observe the Covid-19 measures and complete the syllabus in the major drive to recover learning time lost during last year’s prolonged closure.

With no additional classrooms constructed since schools closed in March last year to contain coronavirus infections, schools will have to create make-shift spaces to ease congestion.

PS Jwan said that in the spirit of 100 per cent transition, all parents/guardians whose children sat KCPE must ensure that they proceed to Form One.

“Free day secondary school fees cover all in public schools and we expect all children to be admitted to schools,” said Jwan.

The PS also asked school heads to ensure learners wear masks at all times and that all applicable Covid-19 protocols are observed.

He also said that the syllabus should also be covered within the stipulated time based on guidelines from the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).

“We are going into another unknown journey. If we have faith as a nation and as a people, we have nothing to worry about. God will be in control of the process,” said Magoha.

The CS said that even as reports show the country could be facing a fourth covid-19 wave, he said the ministry will do what it is expected to do to keep children safe. 

This as it emerged that teachers are the weak link in safe schools reopening with only 96,000 fully vaccinated. Data however show that at least 160,000 teachers have had their first jab, with stakeholders urging for enhanced vaccination for the tutors.

In a survey conducted by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), teachers said the anticipated fourth wave of Covid-19 is their biggest worry as the new school term starts.

The report, titled Teacher Preparedness for Term 1 (2021-2022) Opening, finds that teachers may not be well prepared to tackle the challenges.

aoduor@standardmedia.co.ke.

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