Uhuru rules out suspension of national exams

Education CS Prof George Magoha (left) and his PS Belio Kipsang when they appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee on the Budget Policy Statement at Parliament on February 19, 2020. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

The government is making emergency preparations to have all candidates resume learning and to sit national examinations at the end of the year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday ruled out suspension of this year’s Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations amid the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that has disrupted the school calendar.

President Kenyatta said his administration will issue specific guidelines on how the candidates will resume learning and lauded the ongoing online teachings through radio and television aired programmes.

“The Ministry of Education is preparing for post Covid-19. Major expectations from parents is how the candidates will sit their national examinations,” Uhuru said yesterday during a morning interview broadcast by various Swahili local radio stations.

Various options

The assurance of learning and national examinations is in line with what Cabinet Secretary George Magoha (pictured) said last Sunday that his ministry is weighing various options for the education sector under the prevailing crisis.

It was, however, not clear whether partial opening of schools for candidates is among the options the ministry is considering as time ticks towards the official opening date for second term in May.

The president said the 1.2 million candidates registered for KCPE and KCSE exams should not worry as all measures were being put in place to ensure they sit their exams.

“Our position is that the candidates will sit their exams. We are just looking at the adjustments we need to make on when it will happen, and what we need to do for them to catch up on the time they have lost," he said.

However, teachers have proposed restricted opening of schools to cushion candidates and safeguard the education calendar for proper transition in December. Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) national officials yesterday said if Kenyans adhere to the Ministry of Health guidelines, partial opening of schools would be considered.

Kessha national chairman Kahi Indimuli, in his advisory to the Ministry of Education, proposed that Form Three and Four students should be allowed back to school under restricted protocols. For primary schools, Standard Seven and Eight pupils would also be allowed back to classes.

Social distance

Indimuli said with the rest of learners at home, it would be practicable to keep children spread across the other empty classrooms and dormitories for safe social distancing.

“This would also call for a change in internal school timetables because a class may only hold a maximum of 10 students to avoid crowding,” said Indimuli.

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion said with social distancing and other preventive measures of Covid-19, Standard Eight and Form Four students can go back to school.

“We can assure Kenyans that we can prepare children for examinations, which will be done in time and this resonates with the wishes of all children,” said Sossion.

Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori said they are not opposed to partial opening of schools as long as safety of children and teachers is guaranteed.

Candidates safety

“Everyone is anxious if safety concerns have been addressed to support partial learning,” said Misori.

In his proposals, Indimuli advised that before partial opening of schools happens, the Ministry of Health must fumigate all the schools’ facilities. He asked for immediate stop in usage of the institutions as isolation centres.

“They should also provide face masks and sanitisers in schools for candidates, teachers and the support staff on duty,” said Indimuli.

For boarding schools, he said total quarantine rules shall apply with teachers staying away from school compound being closely monitored. Day schools will require the government to ensure availability of running water and soap for hand washing and sanitisers.

“All schools must be given the temperature guns, which shall be used during every break to monitor students and details strictly recorded,” said Indimuli.

He said partial opening of schools must be implemented before end of June. If more time is lost it may be hard to recover. Students lost three weeks of first term when schools closed.

Prof Magoha yesterday declined to comment on the available options being considered, but said the country has not reached a level of cancelling the examinations.

“I am aware parents are very apprehensive. The government has not pronounced itself that the exam will be postponed,” said Magoha