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We must tread very carefully on reopening of learning institutions

By Editorial | May 26th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Some pupils of Nakuru’s Excel Academy leave the school after the government closed all schools due to Coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The premium most Kenyans place on education is evident in calls for the reopening of schools.

The government ordered the closure of schools, among other measures, following the confirmation of the first Covid-19 case in the country on March 13, 2020.

The rationale for doing so was to contain the possible spread of coronavirus. It was necessary to close schools given the high number of learners and proximity to each other, yet social distancing has been identified as one of the effective containment measures.

Kenyan schools observe a rigorous calendar that culminates in national exams beginning mid-October through to December. Such rigidity has caused concern among stakeholders in the education sector, with some calling for a resumption of learning in June. But while it is easy to sympathise with such calls, they fail to take into account the fact that we are far from tackling the cause of school closures in the first place, which is Covid-19.

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Coronavirus is a killer disease without a cure, and it would be reckless to expose learners to its dangers in the name of adhering to the school calendar. Examinations, which in any case can be rescheduled, should not override the wellbeing of learners, especially given the finality of death. Sick and dead learners will have no use for national examinations, which is why those calling for a resumption in schooling before the Covid-19 curve has been flattened should reconsider their position.

France reopened schools after months of closure barely two weeks ago, but alarmingly, there has been a flare-up in Covid-19 cases, with at least 70 learners testing positive. That is a situation nobody would wish to see replicated here.

Already, some areas have been identified as Covid-19 hotspots in Kenya, with some towns and residential areas placed under travel restrictions. These areas host schools to which it would be injudicious to admit learners. If learners were to leave these areas to travel to their schools elsewhere in the country before the all clear sign is given by the Health ministry, chances of spreading coronavirus would increase exponentially.

For this reason, calls by the Kenya National Union of Teachers, Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association and other industry stakeholders to put schools’ reopening on hold until the threat of coronavirus is conclusively dealt with mean well for Kenyans. 

The safety and welfare of not just learners, but their teachers as well, should come first.

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