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Push exams to 2021, education lobbies tell government

By Hillary Orinde | May 28th 2020

Three unions, a rights lobby and two other groups on Wednesday proposed that primary and secondary school national examinations be administered between January and March 2021.

In a joint report to the National Emergency Response Committee, the group is also calling on the government to consider keeping schools shut until September 2021 when it expects to flatten the coronavirus infection curve.

"Experts do project that the peak of the curve is in August. Viably, schools cannot re-open until September 2020," the report reads.

"It is advisable to maintain the closure of Kenyan educational institutions and universities until the number of new cases stabilizes or declines for at least 14 consecutive days, before considerations for phased re-opening begins," the report adds.

The proposals were submitted by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC).  

Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists & Doctors Union (KMPDU), Forum for African Women Educationalists and Elimu Tuitakayo Network also had their input in the submission.

They hold that there is currently no evidence to show that the government has made an effort to comply with the UNESCO guidelines for school reopening.

UNESCO suggests that the decision to take students back to schools should be guided by the best interest of the child and overall public health considerations based on an assessment of the associated benefits and risks.

"Reopening of schools, colleges and universities must be transparent, phased and coupled with clear communication by the government and public universities, colleges and schools, with the input of public health professionals, frontline healthcare professionals, educators, academic staff and the unions," the report notes.

It wants the government to do mass testing for all students and teachers of boarding schools before the planned reopening once the pandemic is contained. As of May 27, Kenya has tested 67,339 people of which 1,471 have tested positive.

At the same time, they want those who are sick be allowed to stay home until full recovery before the resumption of learning.

"Set up treatment facilities to handle any cases that might arise to ensure access to health services by teachers, lecturers, non-teaching staff and learners," the report proposes.

It also wants the state to adopt proactive approaches to reintegrate marginalised and out-of-school children, invest in water, sanitation and hygiene to mitigate risks and focus on remedial education to compensate for lost instructional time.

"Provide sustainable supply of Personal Protective Equipment for teachers, workers and students," the report proposes.

The report also wants an elaborate and solid plan on occupational safety and health assessment for all schools be put in place including a periodic risk assessment of the teachers based on the WHO guidelines for risk assessment for health care workers.

What people are saying

KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion holds that reopening of schools earlier than September is by any means tough.

"It will be hard to enforce social distancing on school children," Sossion said.

Social media user Kevin Anyonge is of the opinion that schools should not be reopened.

He tweeted: “It's a risky affair, because we don't have even the precautionary measures on how to handle the students. Social distancing will be a greater challenge.”

Another, Carol Mwende thinks that “Government should only allow the Class 8 and Form 4 candidates to resume first. For the rest, they can reschedule and do their exams at a later date.”


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