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Schooling at home is not for everyone

By Jeckonia Otieno | Apr 5th 2020 | 3 min read

It is not an easy time for Marion now that schools are closed.

As the second born in a family of four, the 11-year-old has now turned into a helper for her mother who sells grocery.

“My daughter has to help me when she is not in school and since we cannot afford a teacher, the best she can do is revise whatever she has learnt,” says the girl’s mother.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said learning will be done through different platforms.

"Beginning Monday 23rd March, 2020, the ministry enhanced curriculum delivery through four different platforms - Radio, TV, YouTube and Kenya Education Cloud," said Prof Magoha.

Indeed, a week after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered for the closure, a number of private schools came up with learning programmes mainly on the Internet.

Many parents have also resorted to getting learning materials from the Internet as well as home schooling.

However, the question would be how many learners this will leave out, bearing in mind that at the end of the day, they are expected to sit the same national examinations.

While it is estimated that Kenya has 46 million Internet users, the question is whether this will translate into easy access of learning materials for learners.

Experts are foreseeing entrenchment of inequality in the desire for alternative forms of learning.

Jonathan Wesaya, an education expert, says inequality comes in two ways based on where the learners live. He warns that while home schooling may be a solution at the moment, it is not affordable for everyone. On the other hand, it places untold pressure on one set of learners compared to the other.

“Home schooling is not about homework but a deliberate discussion by parents, which involves one or both of the parents abandoning their jobs and dedicating time to educate their children and it comes with costs,” Wesaya says.

He says ordinarily, this form of schooling goes beyond just cutting school fees and comes with issues like the children having to eat at home, the need to reorganize the house and set up playing spaces as well as factoring in time of the parent as a teacher.

“For now, it is an instant coffee type of decision for most, especially in the middle class, but it is not a solution for public education. At this point in the crisis parents must stop making rush decisions,” says Wesaya.

But it turns out that in a number of households that can access Internet, learners are being loaded with homework, in the thought that parents helping them do the homework is homeschooling.

A good example is a school in Eastlands, which has been sending such exams every day. Wesaya says this is likely to do more harm than good.

“You find schools uploading assignments on Google Drive, WhatsApp and other sites and asking parents to help their children do them. This is dangerous as some schools are doing this daily, yet education is not just about examinations,” he says.

Sara Ruto, an educationist and founder of Uwezo East Africa, says there will be entrenched inequalities.

“There is a difference between how public and private schools have handled the whole situation; but even within the private schools, the ones with middle class parents have put in place more elaborate measures to ensure learning continues,” says Dr Ruto.

She says public schools have not done this due to the socio-economic challenges facing the parents.

But she says the radio programmes, which the government has rolled out, will be significant in reducing some of these inequalities.

“Almost every household has a radio set and can tune in to get the lessons.”

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