Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) has proposed partial opening of schools by June 15 for national examination candidates.
Kuppet also wants final year students at the universities and colleges to report by the same date.
In a detailed memorandum to the Education Response Committee set up by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, the union proposes that students in Form Three, Class Six and Seven be admitted to schools by August.
“While these recommendations are drawn from the experiences of other countries, Ministry of Health should have the final authority on partial re-opening of learning institutions,” said Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori.
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Parents have, however, dismissed the proposal, saying the earliest they would release their children to schools is September, and only if the virus is contained.
Parents Association national chairman Nicholas Maiyo yesterday cautioned against using children ‘to test Covid 19 waters.’
“We shall not allow anyone to experiment with children. Let them start by opening adult social joints such as churches, bars and fields to assess the virus prevalence before getting children out to school,” said Maiyo. Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) yesterday cautioned against hurried re-opening, saying the schools could be the new epicentre of infections.
“Our team of medical experts are telling us that if schools open soon there will be a resurgence of infections of the virus,” said Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion.
Mr Sossion said as long as the virus is not contained, Kenyans must forget about schools opening.
“Let them resume social programmes first before schools. Safety of students and teachers is number one and that is still not guaranteed by hurried opening,” he said.
Kuppet proposed that the additional admission of students to schools will be done after thorough assessment of the one-month implementation of Covid-19 containment measures in schools and colleges.
The union said the government may consider rolling out learning in shifts or sessions and also adopt teaching of some classes in outdoor conditions to allow for social distancing.
Parents yesterday said priority must remain containment of the virus. Mr Maiyo said since the severity of the pandemic is still under study, the government must not hurry to open schools.
“If government sticks to enforcing the strong containment measures, we can talk of September and only after we shall be sure of children’s safety,” the Parents Association national chairman said.
Prof Magoha suspended opening of schools by another one month to a tentative date of June 4.
Even though some 13 weeks will have been lost by this time, the CS said the national examination dates will remain as scheduled. Secondary school heads are on record saying that partial learning should not be delayed past June.
Defending schools opening, Kuppet cited a study by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on prolonged closure of schools.
Kuppet said adverse consequences of school closures lead to rise in dropout rates, increased exposure to violence and exploitation, confusion and stress for teachers and poor nutrition for children, who rely on free or discounted meals provided at schools.
Before opening, the union wants all schools used as isolation centres fumigated, and teaching and support staff tested for the virus.
“This will empower the teachers to act at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19,” the report partly reads.
Kuppet also proposes separation of boarding and day sections for combined schools to keep the two streams of students apart.
“The matrons, nurses and technologists should be taken through crash programmes as part of schools’ Covid-19 public health measures,” reads the document.
The union also wants specific measures such as provision of running water to schools, lunch for candidates among other steps to limit contact.
And parents should not be compelled to pay fees once learning resumes, according to Kuppet, arguing that the pandemic has disrupted the incomes and livelihoods of many.
The union also wants new guidelines on teaching developed that will suspend individualised assignments, marking of books and micromanagement.
Kuppet proposes a broad-based task force to draw a national action plan that will guide resumption of learning.
“The national task force will create a decision-making model for the re-opening and closure of schools where Covid-19 infections are detected.”
Kuppet said the team will have structures from the sub-county level, with representatives from ministries of Health and Education, secondary and primary school heads, constituency development fund, teachers’ unions, civil society, parents and religious groups.
The proposals by Kuppet and parents will now form part of ideas that will be considered by the Sara Ruto-led committee in giving critical advice to the Ministry of Education on schools reopening.
Magoha picked the team to advise him on the reopening of all basic learning institutions, Teacher Training colleges and Adult Education institutions.
The committee will also advise the CS on the health and safety measures to be put in place for the pupils/students, teachers and entire school community.
The committee will advise on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the demand for education by poor households and suggest mitigation measures.
Representatives of secondary and primary school heads, private schools, international schools, Kenya Special Schools Heads Association and parents’ associations are listed as members to the committee.