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Home learning for public schools starts today amid exams anxiety

By Augustine Oduor | May 4th 2020

Sakhu Galma, a pupil at Children in Freedom school, Nakuru, during an online lesson at home. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]

Out-of-class learning for children in public schools resumes today under a revised timetable even as questions on the effectiveness and reach of the lessons emerge.

Under the new home learning programmes, KCPE and KCSE candidates will get more time and lessons as challenges of access to the lessons and commitment to the government modules still remain.

“Most children cannot access these lessons unless government expands the approach to include vernacular radio stations and other local television stations loved by the children,” Nicholas Maiyo, National Parents Association chairman said.

Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), however, said the Second Term timetable had been reviewed to enable all classes – pre-primary, primary and secondary – to start lessons on the same page.

“We want all pupils to start from the same page where no one is ahead of the rest in any given class. This means that all second term work will start officially on Monday for all classes,” said Joel Mabonga, the acting KICD Chief Executive Officer. Experts will also be invited to engage parents on their roles in supporting their children during home lessons.

Maiyo, however, cautioned that parents may not be available to coach their children all the time. “They can coach today but not next day because, without food, they must leave to go fend,” he said.

The big question among many parents and education stakeholders has been whether national examinations for Standard Eight and Form Four candidates will be done as scheduled or if they will be rescheduled.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has insisted that KCPE and KCSE examinations timetable remains unchanged even as teachers’ unions remain split on the move. Yesterday, Prof Magoha added: “Even up to this point the government has not decided to postpone national exams. The children should enjoy the holiday. Schools shall remain closed effective May 4 up to 4th next month.”

He said a lot of things that will determine if schools will reopen, will be discussed.

“Ask yourself, whether in your considered opinion if the past week has been good or bad. Would you rather send your children back to school at the end of the month with all these facts?” he posed.

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has openly said that administration of national examinations will be a challenge if schools remain shut beyond June.

Secondary school heads have say coverage of the school syllabus would be shaky if schools are closed beyond June, saying more than 11 weeks would be lost.

But the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) believes that there would be adequate time to prepare candidates for national examinations.

To cover some of the lost time, the Ministry of Education rolled out out-of-class lessons through online, TV and radio channels after schools closed in March. 

Children can access the lessons through the KBC radio channel, Edu-channel TV, Edu TV on YouTube and the Kenya Education Cloud.

But this arrangement has been criticised for not carrying all leaners along as some pupils are lagging behind others who had covered the topics.

Parents have also complained that the timetable is haphazard, with some lessons launched even before learners could understand the previous topics. Most homes do not have internet connectivity, computers or learning devices such as smartphones and television sets. 

The challenges of mobilising students to participate in the lessons were also highlighted, as some parents were not fully engaged in the process.

Yesterday, Mabonga said all the gaps noted during the first three weeks of home learning had been addressed. 

He said the previous timetable had lessons that were rolled out under rapid interventions to salvage the emergency situation.

“We have now taken necessary steps to ensure all children have lessons in time. We have also enhanced parental engagement and opened up feedback channels,” said Mabonga.

While home learning among learners in public schools has been shaky, private schools have leveraged on their robust ICT investments to roll out virtual learning. The second phase of out of school learning kicks off days after Magoha extended the opening of schools by another month.

This means that the earliest schools may open is June 4 subject to the management and containment of the coronavirus.

With calls to partially open schools made by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kuppet has instructed all its branch executives to conduct a broad survey targeting headteachers through an online tool to assess if it would be possible to open institutions by June.

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