It is now emerging that the government may only have up to the end of June to recall candidates to school to cover the syllabus and have equal chance to sit the national examinations.
Interviews with teachers and education experts reveal that anything beyond June will force the government to make serious adjustments, which may disadvantage some candidates.
With three weeks already lost during the first term, teachers said another delay beyond June will pose a huge challenge in covering the syllabus and preparing children for examinations. Secondary school heads said by the end of June, some 11 weeks will have been lost, arguing that any additional week would not be easily recovered.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) national chairman Kahi Indimuli said schools can adjust to covering the syllabus and prepare the candidates.
“We can reduce the August holiday to recover the first three weeks lost in the first term and seek ways of getting back the four weeks lost in May,” said Indimuli.
According to the 2020 school calendar, the second term was scheduled to start on May 4 and to last 14 weeks with the closing date set for August 7.
The one-week half-term scheduled for June 15-19 would be used to recover some of the lost time. The third term was to start on August 31 and end on October 30 to pave way for the national examinations. Knec examination timetable shows KCPE was to start on October 27 and KCSE on November 2.
Indimuli said the national examinations could be delayed by another three weeks so as to fully recover the four weeks lost in June.
“This means we may start national examinations towards the end of November and complete it before Christmas time. Marking could even be done next year as was the practice long before the reforms,” said Indimuli.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary-General Akello Misori cautioned that beyond June, a whole term will have been lost and it would never be the same.
According to this year’s school calendar, the first and second terms were to last 14 weeks. The third term for primary schools was to last nine weeks and 10 weeks for secondary schools.
“With more than 11 weeks gone, we may not have express learning with examinations in mind. A time will come when it is impossible,” said Misori.
Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion, however, believes there shall be adequate time to prepare students for national examinations post coronavirus.
“The syllabus is as good as done in most schools; what is remaining is revision and preparing students for the examinations,” said Sossion.
Parents, however, said they will not release their children to schools unless the coronavirus curve is flattened.
“Parents’ fear remains the safety of their children, whether candidates or in lower classes. This will all depend on the coronavirus curve,” said Nicholas Maiyo, the national chairman of parents.
He further said that before children go back to schools, they must be screened and those infected isolated.
“They all come from diverse counties some with many cases registered and this will affect learning if proper measures are not taken into consideration,” said Maiyo.
Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) national chairman Nicholas Gathemia, however, said teachers will be ready to teach as long as their safety and those of children are guaranteed.
“As long as we are assured that children and teachers will be safe, we shall support the government initiative,” said Gathemia.
In an interview with The Standard, Indimuli said with the proposed adjustments, it would be practical to retain the January to September school calendar.
“There must be exit and transition period for learners in an education system. If this does not happen then it means that the education calendar may be adjusted to start in September and end September next year to coincide with universities admissions time,” said Indimuli.
However, he said, this may pose serious challenges because students may be forced to sit in same class for another year.
“This will come with a lot of stress among the learners. The other question will be what happens to Grade 4 pupils in Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC). Will they repeat or will they be moved to the 8-4-4 system,” said Indimuli.
Secondary school heads said if Kenyans comply with health directives on management of Covid-19 and candidates are sent to school before end of June, teachers would do their best to cope.
Indimuli advised that before schools open, the Ministry of Health must fumigate all the institutions and shelve plans to use them as isolation centres.
“They should also provide face masks and sanitisers for use in schools by the candidates, teachers and the lean support staff,” said Indimuli.