For the first time since schools were closed in early March, there is a time bound promise to reopen the institutions. On Monday, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha gave the clearest hint so far that learners could be going back to schools and not just soon but as soon as in the next two weeks.
The minister, who hitherto appeared, like most of the world leaders, unsure about the behaviour of the novel coronavirus that led to the abnormal closure of the learning institutions in the first place, for once exhibited a level of confidence that has been missing in the various announcements on the pandemic and the ministry’s management of it.
Magoha addressed the Press at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development after a three-hour meeting with members of a the Covid-19 Education Emergency Response Committee in which they agreed that in just ten days, the country will know the exact day of the reopening of schools.
The minster also announced that the government had given the management of universities and vocational colleges the greenlight to chart their specific reopening schedules, meaning it’s all clear for learning to resume.
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This announcement is the best news the country has had in the six or so months that we have lived in the valley of the shadow of death that Covid-19 has visited unto us. Though it doesn’t mean we have conquered the virus, the reopening of the education sector is the clearest sign so far that there is a bright side at the end of an otherwise very dark tunnel.
It is no secret that Covid-19 and its attendant government initiated management measures have hit each and every sector of our national life with devastating effects. Millions of us have lost livelihoods and hundreds have lost lives.
The economy, at least that of the common mwananchi, is in a shambles and many are begging to live and eat. The closure of the school system alone affected millions of people. Teachers under the school boards of management were left without a source of income and so were other workers in the support staff category.
But there are others who depend on the school system for their livelihood. The school transport providers, uniforms and bookshops, food suppliers, stationery suppliers. To these people, Professor Magoha’s announcement is a life-saving one. To them, this is finally a resurrection.
To the learners and their parents, the fact that schools could indeed open before the end of the year gives hope that Year 2020 was not wholly eaten up by the virus. Though it is not clear yet how the school calendar will be managed henceforth, any day salvaged is definitely an achievement and can only be a good thing.
But it is a time of such good happenings that we need to sit back and count our blessings even as we take stock of our losses. Covid-19 happened as a function of factors beyond our control. When it came, it got all of us off-guard. It is how we handled it that needs appraisal.
We must give the administration of President Uhuru Kenyatta a thumps-up for the way it navigated through the whole pandemic to the time we can see some light. Granted, there were blunders here and there and tragedies motivated by the greed of a few individuals tasked with managing some resources meant to fight the disease. But overall, the government did a good job that disappointed the prophets of doom. Other countries, more endowed than us, did worse.
Then there were our medical and healthcare personnel. This group of frontline soldiers outdid themselves to save us. And they did a wonderful job, most times at their personal danger. Some paid the ultimate price and deserve to be called martyrs. May they dance with the angels!
Even as we celebrate the positive turn of events, we must always remember that the virus has not been fully eliminated yet and danger still looms. As the children go back to school, everyone should play their role to ensure that they are as protected as they can be.
We need to stay alert.
-Michael Cherambos is a social commentator. [email protected]