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Anxious moment: Uhuru to give direction on school re-opening today

By Protus Onyango | June 6th 2020
Education CS Prof. George Magoha. [Jenipher Wachie/Standard]

Parents will today be anxiously waiting to hear when their children are likely to go back to school.

Yesterday, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said President Uhuru Kenyatta will issue instructions on when schools will re-open since they were closed abruptly in March following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.

Magoha remained non-committal on when learners will go back to school, only insisting that all decisions made will be on the recommendations of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) National Education Response Committee.

Final report

After receiving the final report at Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) yesterday, Magoha assured parents and guardians that the government will provide further direction today regarding the extended closure of schools, given that some of the main Covid-19 restrictions are set to expire.

“Government, in consultation with development partners, is putting in place mitigation measures in all schools to prevent Covid-19 from penetration to the learning institutions,” Magoha said.

He said he will not rush to re-open schools at this time when the virus is still not under control. “The pandemic is still spiking. Nobody has re-opened schools when the disease is still spiking. South Korea and Israel did everything right, re-opened schools and were forced to close when the disease started killing students,” Magoha said.

He said his ministry will review the report presented to the president yesterday before advising the country on the steps to be taken regarding the academic calendar.

“Some of the recommendations touch on the level of preparedness that will be required of all stakeholders involved in the running of ECD centres, primary and secondary schools, teacher training institutions, other colleges and universities.

"It should be instructive that all decisions will be made based on data and evidence provided by the Ministry of Health,” Magoha said.

He added that this is important because 351 public schools are being used as quarantine centres while some universities are used as Covid-19 isolation centres.

The CS asked parents to take full responsibility of their children during this time they are at home, lamenting that some of the parents have abandoned their children, exposing them to trouble.

“On a sad note, the Ministry has noted that some parents, guardians and caregivers are not providing sufficient care to their children while at home.

"For instance, we have received reports that four Form One girls have become pregnant since the schools were closed in March, 2020,” Magoha said.

He revealed that some of the affected girls were part of a team from urban slums that were on four-year scholarships by government and its partners.

He also advised parents to take note of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) warning of internet child abusers who have started luring children into all manner of cyberspace offenses after invading their digital learning classes.

“The Ministry wishes to urge parents, guardians and caregivers to firmly take charge of the custody of their children while at home and protect them from sexual and drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, female genital cutting and child labour,” Magoha said.

He told parents that it is necessary to guarantee the safety and health of children while at home. All offenses against learners must be reported to the government administration officers and DCI.

Through the Kenya Institute for Curriculum Development, Magoha said his ministry has extended lessons provided through the broadcast, online and digital learning until schools are re-opened.

Magoha formed the Covid-19 National Education Response Committee on May 12 to advise the him on the measures to be taken to ensure a return to normalcy in the basic education sector in the coronavirus era.

Some of the tasks of the committee included reviewing and re-organising the school calendar as part of the Covid-19 post-recovery strategy.

The committee was also to advise the CS on ways of securing boarding learners when the schools re-open, document all Covid-19 related matters, lessons learnt and recommendations for future preparedness.

The report will also give recommendations on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the demand for education by poor households and suggest mitigation measures.

Magoha said the Ministry will implement all health and safety measures to be put in place for the learners, teachers and entire school community.

“We are interested in the safety and health of our children. This will be our main focus including keeping their teachers and school communities safe,” Magoha said.

The report also contains measures on the implementation progress of Covid-19 related programmes and identifies institutions that may have been adversely affected by the pandemic and advise on mitigation and recovery measures.

Recovery measures

The committee, led by KICD boss Sarah Ruto presented a preliminary report to Magoha on May 29. Yesterday, Magoha commended the committee for making credible proposals on the way forward in seeking a resumption of learning.

“The ministry will take seriously the committee’s recommendations and use them to step up further dialogue with all other stakeholders within and without government to ensure appropriate and decisive measures are put in place to facilitate resumption of learning,” Magoha said.

-The Writer is a 2019/2020 Bertha Fellow

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