CS Magoha: Learners to spend more hours in school

More than 15 million Kenyan students will have to learn for longer hours and have their holiday times shortened once they resume learning, the Ministry of Education said yesterday.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (pictured) said they will shorten the second term, reduce the August school holidays by two weeks and adjust school days to have longer hours so as to recover the time lost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A statement Prof Magoha presented to the National Assembly's Committee on Education and Research said they had postponed school re-opening to June 4, resulting to a loss of seven weeks of learning.

"The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic led to closure of schools on 15th March, three weeks earlier than scheduled. The ministry has further extended the second term by one month from 4th May," he said.

The CS, who was expected to appear before the committee yesterday, raised fears that the roll-out of the second phase of the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) for Grade Five students could be affected by the pandemic.

Equally affected is the monitoring of the Pre-Primary 1 and 2 and Grade 1 to 4, which was scheduled to take place by March but was halted when schools were closed.

Radio lessons

"This exercise was to enable the KICD (Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development) to follow up on classroom processes to support the teachers and field officers as well as identify gaps for interventions during the training in April," Magoha said.

He, however, said the KICD had rolled out lessons for radio, TV and other platforms for all the 15 million learners in primary and secondary schools.

"KICD had scheduled for evaluation of the course books and teachers' guides for Grade 5 in April when teachers are on recess followed by distribution to ensure they are in school by November. This may however be disrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus," the CS said.

Magoha, who is expected to appear before the same committee on Thursday, did not give any directions on the Grade 5 roll-out.

He said the ministry, through KICD, is using 20 regional radio stations, apart from KBC TV and radio, to broadcast to learners the lessons.

He also he said that every Friday, KICD develops weekly radio and TV transmission schedules as programme lineups, which are published on the institute's website, newspapers and social media platforms.

Magoha said even as the government continues to monitor the situation and consult with other agencies, the dates for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams remain unchanged.

The CS said 460 education institutions had been designated as quarantine centres.

These are 25 universities, 36 Kenya Medical Training College campuses, 28 teachers' training colleges and 331 secondary schools.

"The selection of the schools followed a criteria that prioritised boarding facilities and proximity to the treatment facilities for Covid-19 for ease of management."

Fumigate buildings

He said the Ministry of Health will fumigate the buildings before handing them over to the Ministry of Education.

It emerged from reports by Ministry of Education’s Kenya Basic Education Covid-19 Emergency Response Plan that the effects of closing schools for long could last a lifetime in some cases.

Schools are hubs of social and human interaction. 90,000 schools are closed and 18 million pre-primary, primary and secondary learners are at home, unable to move beyond their compounds or play with their mates.

Also tucked within their dingy camps are 150,000 refugee learners and over 300,000 teachers idling at home.

“The closure of schools coupled with restricted movement with acute challenges around space among poor households may exacerbate cases of exposure to pornographic materials, drug and substance abuse, increased rape, gender-based violence, including defilement of children,” the ministry’s report warns.

The report says children with special needs face greater prospects of neglect, abuse and segregation, leading to loneliness whose impact may last a lifetime unless addressed. Learners in low-income households, the report adds, are the most unfortunate lot.

It also notes that a number of students may never go back to school whenever they are reopened as they will have been sucked into other commitments.