By Augustine Oduor
KENYA: Schools reopen tomorrow amid fears activities in the first term may be interrupted by the March 4 General Election.
Fears are also growing over Form One selection following delay to release the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) results.
Traditionally, KCPE results have been released immediately after Christmas, but this changed last year following the three weeks teachers’ strike that forced the ministry to adjust the school timetable to cover lost time.
Consequently, examinations were pushed forward and so was the marking and the subsequent release of the results.
Education minister Mutula Kilonzo said last year’s KCPE results will be released on January 25.
But even as parents prepare to send their children to schools tomorrow, elections and the euphoria that comes with it are threatening smooth learning.
Already, teachers’ unions have asked political parties to conduct their nominations over the weekends to avoid disruption of the school calendar.
The National Alliance, United Republican Party and Orange Democratic Movement parties have each chosen January 17 for nominations. This date falls on a weekday (Thursday).
The Alliance Party of Kenya has also set January 14 for party primaries, which falls on a Monday.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Okuta Osiany and the national Chairman Wilson Sossion want these dates pushed to weekend when there are no learning activities in schools.
“Party nominations are often chaotic. If they will be done in school compounds or in fields around schools then this will obviously interfere with learners’ concentration,” said Mr Osiany.
Mr Sossion further said time would be lost during the two-week period that children will be home during the General Election.
“It is only fair that we reduce other interruptions before the elections. These party nominations should be done on weekends,” he said.
Mutula announced that students would be sent home for two weeks to pave way for the March elections.
He said the two-week half term break would begin on February 28.
This means that up to 50 lessons will not be taught for the period children will be away. This may even be more in case of a run off.
The union officials noted that ODM, URP and TNA parties have massive following and the fact that most of the elections will take place in school compounds poses major inconvenience for learners.
Knut also wants measures put in place to bar noisy political party caravans from passing near schools.
But learning is set to be interrupted more in case there shall be no definite winner after the set elections date. This shall call for a run off 30 days after the elections.
“The law says that the electoral commission should announce results within 11 days. Now we have another 30 days to conduct a re-run if it gets to that. We are not sure how it will be,” said Sossion. Mutula however said he has started talks with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct the run off polls on a weekend.
He said the first school term would have 14 weeks, starting January 7 and ending on April 12.
“Second term would begin from May 6 to August 9, also lasting 14 weeks. The third term will have 11 weeks, starting from September 2 to November 15,” he said.
But even as Education minister and his PS George Godia assure Kenyans that learning will go on smoothly despite the campaigns and elections there are fears that learners may not concentrate in class.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association national chairman Cleopas Tirop said schools are headed for a tough first term. He said teachers would be forced to device ways of covering the syllabus.
“Schools will also find better ways of orientating Form Ones to settle fast because they will be admitted late,” he said. Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary General Akelo Misori blamed the political class for pushing elections to this year.
“We asked for December elections last year. But they could not hear any of it. Now we face this and we hope that the syllabus will be completed,” he said.
Knut and Kuppet have in the past argued that first term is crucial and called for a December poll to avert possible effect on Standard Eight and Form Four candidates.
“Most schools are used as polling centres. And a good number are used as tallying centres. This means that all schools will have to close because of elections,” said Osiany.
“We just revised the term dates and we are not going to engage in another revision of term dates. We must respect the education of our children just as much as we need elections,” said Sossion.
The Kenya National Parents and Teachers Association chair Nathan Baraza said examination registration will be interrupted if elections are held in March.