More than 1,600 schools not ready for learning

Austin Onyango (left) assesses the situation at his school, Odienya Mixed Day Secondary School, in Pombo, Nyando. [Michael Mute, Standard]

A crisis is looming in public schools next week when learning resumes following President William Ruto’s directive on reopening.

It is now emerging that hundreds of thousands of learners may not open school next week on Monday as their institution’s facilities are still submerged in water and classrooms destroyed.

The Standard has also established another brewing between school managers and the government following reports that no capitation money will be disbursed or sent to schools when they reopen for second term on Monday.

Speaking on Thursday, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said only five per cent of schools are not ready for reopening. “We have done an assessment in all our schools and over 95 per cent are ready for reopening, the ones badly affected are less than five per cent,” Machogu said.

This means with 32,878 public primary and secondary schools across the country, at least 1,649 schools will not reopen. Prof Machogu said they include schools where toilets and other critical facilities have collapsed and may cause serious challenges to learners.

Speaking in Bungoma, Interior PS Raymond Omollo said some 2,000 schools are still affected by the floods. He said the schools are spread over 21 counties. “Nearly 2,000 schools have been severely affected. We have established adequate mechanisms to enable our students to continue their education smoothly,” PS Omollo said.

For these schools, Machogu said, the government will give Sh1 billion for the repair of the damaged infrastructure through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).

Also affected are seven primary schools and three secondary schools currently being used as settlement camps for displaced families. For these schools, the CS says they are working with the Ministry of Interior to relocate the families to allow for the institutions to reopen.

“We want to reassure parents that their children will be safe when they get back to school,” Machogu said.

Further confusion however reigns on the reopening of schools due to a lack of clear direction on how day school learners will be protected to and from schools.

The CS indicated that the decision to put in place measures for the day school learners has been left to schools to independently assess the situation and give mitigations.

The other headache to reopening however is disbursement of capitation. Even though Machogu said that parents will get school fees reprieve with flexible payment, headteachers faulted his statement that capitation money for this term was already sent by the end of first term.

Machogu said schools should utilise monies sent to the institutions just before the end of first term. “We released money to schools at the beginning of first term, 25 per cent and at the end of the term we also released another 25 per cent… I’m sure (the latter) has not been put to use in some of these schools and they will start with that,” the CS said.

Machogu spoke at Karen C secondary school while assessing the preparedness to reopen learning institutions.

The heads however said running the institutions without capitation will frustrate their efforts to receive learners.

The heads argued that money released at the end of the first term has already been used to repay debts and overdue salaries for non-teaching staff.

In the absence of the monies, Johnson Nzioka, the Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association chairman forecasts a dire situation as schools struggle to run operations.

“Capitation for second term should be in schools like yesterday for school heads to prepare the learning institutions, we need to purchase cleaning materials, tidy the compounds that are bushy from overgrowth that happened during the holidays,” Nzioka said.

For learners who have to go through swollen rivers, Machogu directed the community and board of management will also have the discretion of the mitigation recommend to the ministry.

“We have informed the Board of Management of the affected schools to take due diligence so that we are assured that our children when they go back to school and back home are safe,” Machogu said.

The ministry also revealed plans to adjust second-term dates, by possibly shortening the August holiday to recover time lost during extended school closure, CS Machogu said.

However, the examination calendar for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) will remain unchanged.

“Schools are expected to close in August for three weeks but we might minimize the number of days that schools will be closed so that whatever was supposed to be covered in the syllabus can be recovered during that time,” Machogu said.