The government is upbeat that primary and secondary schools will reopen in January 2021 after months of closure following Covid-19.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Education gave stern instructions to schools to make key arrangements to ensure learning safely resumes.
Educations Cabinet Secretary George Magoha met Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, PS Belio Kipsang, county commissioners and county directors of Education to discuss the status of schools ahead of the planned reopening.
The ministry’s push, however, appeared to have deepened the uncertainty surrounding the new school calendar. With January 2021 just three months away, there are fears not many schools will meet the prescribed Covid-19 safety protocols.
What’s more worrying is that despite schools having run broke due to the prolonged closure, the government is yet to release the Sh15.4 billion that was to help public schools make necessary preparations ahead of January.
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With more than 12 million learners in 23,000 primary schools and 8,000 secondary schools, the government has to stretch itself to meet its own goals to make learning institutions safe. Admittedly, the situation on the ground proves otherwise. To function optimally upon reopening, schools will have to spend millions of shillings to rebuild and expand infrastructure. There’s also the need to bridge gaps in staffing levels. Many schools are in a sorry state — no doors, missing window panes, inadequate desks and toilets.
Without sufficient quantities of sanitisers, water, face masks and expanded classes to accommodate fewer learners per class, reopening puts lives of learners at risk.
We urge the government to hit the ground running now to make schools compliant. It doesn’t matter how many strategy meetings we hold or the pronouncements we make. It may not also matter how grandiose our plans are. What matters is effective implementation.
We laud the government’s plan to spend Sh1.9 billion under the Economic Stimulus Programme to procure locally assembled desks that will ensure safe social distance in class. However, it is important that these plans are implemented promptly.
County directors of Education should survey the situation and update the ministry to facilitate adequate preparedness.
Beyond statements from boardrooms, the ministry has to devise creative methods of helping schools survive this global pandemic.