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Why students may be forced to repeat classes this year

By Augustine Oduor | April 2nd 2020

Students on their way home after schools were closed following an order by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 15 over  coronavirus outbreak. [File, Standard]

The national examiner has cancelled exams scheduled for this month in colleges.

And the possibility of students repeating classes increased with coronavirus threat having disrupted the school calendar.

Educationists have told Kenyans to brace for the worst - possible loss of an entire academic year - if Covid-19 persists for another three months.

This, they said, was not far-fetched given projections that coronavirus cases may increase by end of April, prompting cautionary advice from the authorities against conversion of schools into treatment and isolation centres.

Should the worst case scenario unfold, learners would be forced to repeat classes as it would be impossible to recover lost time to complete the syllabus. Candidates would be compelled to wait longer to sit national examinations while universities would have to delay graduations.

Kenya National Examination Council (Knec) acting Chief Executive Officer Mercy Karogo has already cancelled April certificate and diploma examinations for early childhood development and special needs education.

Diploma exams

“Knec wishes to inform you that the 2020 ECDE proficiency, certificate and diploma examinations scheduled to take place between April 12-16 and the diploma in special needs examinations scheduled for April 12-23 have been postponed until further notice,” said Dr Karogo.

In the circular dated March 30, Dr Karogo told sub-county directors of education and principals of colleges that the council would review the directive once colleges reopen.

Knec has also instructed principals of secondary schools to wait for fresh guidelines that will be released when learning resumes to guide practical exams.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary-General Akello Misori yesterday asked Kenyans to prepare for any eventuality.

“It will not be business as usual and learning can be postponed for a year. This pandemic is as ambiguous as it is in the rest of the world. Exams test a curriculum based on completion of syllabus. If it is not covered, what will they be testing?” posed Misori.

Kuppet, in a memo to the ministries of Education, Internal Security and Health, called for postponement of national exams due later this year.

For primary and secondary schools, Knec had already released examination timetable which shows KCPE is scheduled to start on October 27. KCSE examinations written papers are expected to start on November 2, 2020.

A senior official at Knec said the earliest KCPE and KCSE national examinations can be administered is December.

Primary and Secondary school head teachers, however, said that December examinations would only be possible if learning resumes early and the syllabus is covered.

“The learning year just started when the pandemic struck. Most schools had not cleared the syllabus and therefore it may be a tough decision to make when things get to that level,” said Kahi Indimuli, national chairman Kenya Secondary School Heads Association.

According to this year’s school calendar, under the normal learning schedule, the first term ought to end on April 10. This means that some four weeks of learning has been lost during first term alone.

And with more education institutions being converted into isolation centres, the likelihood of learning resuming immediately in second term is nil.

The authorities instructed the Ministry of Education to, in collaboration with county governments, identify 20 boarding schools to host coronavirus patients in heightened preparations for the worst-case scenarios.

Already, several educational institutions, including universities and colleges, are being used for mandatory quarantine of those deemed to pose a risk.

Sources in government said with projections of increased numbers of coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, facilities in more schools and colleges may be assembled for use.

These developments mean that no learning activities are expected to resume by May 4 when schools were expected to open for second term.

According to the school calendar, second term was scheduled to run for 14 weeks, with August 7 set as closing date.

Ministry of Health officials who spoke to The standard yesterday said that if cases go up as projected, they would not have reduced by end of August.

This means that second term would also have been wasted as learning would not have resumed.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said the government’s immediate task is to ensure Kenyans and all children are safe and alive.

“We do not live in isolation. We also look at what is happening in other parts of the world,” said Prof Magoha, noting reorganisation of the school dates is a decision that can only be made when normal life resumes.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) data reveals that some 1.5 billion learners have been affected by coronavirus pandemic across the world.

This represents some 89.5 per cent of the total enrolled learners in 185 countries that have effected school closures.

Unesco shows that many countries have rescheduled their examinations for all levels of learning, as is the case in Chile, China, France, Japan, Spain and Vietnam.

In some cases such as Florida and Washington in the United States, all State tests were cancelled for the 2019-2020 school year.

Report published by Unesco also reveals how other countries have dealt with long closures of schools.

China, for instance, provided computers to students from low-income families and offered mobile data packages and telecommunication subsidies for its students.

Home lessons

Students and teachers in the United Arab Emirates were given a hotline where learners seek guidance during lessons.

In France, for homes that did not have access to computers and the internet, printed assignments were supplied.

In Portugal, in cases where homes did not have computers and internet, the government has partnered with post office services to deliver working sheets to be done at home.

In Kenya, the government closed all schools and ordered the Ministry of Education to implement out-of-class lessons through online, TV and radio channels.

Learners were advised to access lessons on the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s (KBC) radio channel, Edu-channel TV, Edu TV on YouTube, and the Kenya Education Cloud.

And last week, Communications Authority of Kenya instructed all broadcast signal providers who transmit radio channels to carry the KBC education channel (Edu-TV) on their platforms.

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