As community-based plan is rolled out, there are concerns on whether there are enough open spaces and halls coupled with issues of discipline of teachers, learners.
Mobilising enough teachers to match the huge number of learners in some estates and villages is a major headache the Ministry of Education and Teachers Service Commission (TSC) are grappling with as registration process for community-based learning kicked off this week.
And in some regions, it appeared mobilising learners to attend classes will be a tall order, as it emerged that some counties, such as those in North Eastern region, pose serious challenges to the community-learning programme.
There are also concerns about whether the villages and estates have enough open spaces and halls that may be used to roll out community learning.
Issues of discipline among teachers and learners and how to manage community infections have also been raised as government rolls out the programme to keep learners engaged.
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And with the ministries of Interior, Health and TSC fully engaged in the process, experts also say this is a good chance for the ministry to relook the model of education that would stand future pandemics.
“If it’s done well and safety for learners and teachers is ensured, probably this could be the time to assess if teachers can teach within their localities,” said Kahi Indimuli, the Secondary School Heads Association national chairman.
Indimuli said if well-implemented, the programme may also entice parents to take their children to nearby schools to minimise costs of transport and boarding.
Interviews with school heads, parents, ministry and TSC officials revealed a huge cloud of uncertainty and implementation hiccups that may impair the programme identified as the best means of engaging learners during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Primary School Head Teachers national chairman Nicholas Gathemia said given the health risks involved, teachers should be allowed to participate voluntarily.
“It should be a voluntary exercise because of the huge health risks involved. Who will be answerable for cases of infections in the event it happens? However, we agree that children should be engaged and this must be well thought out,” said Gathemia.
Parents who spoke to The Saturday Standard also expressed fears over their children’s interaction during the learning process.
“We want them to be engaged but how will they ensure the teachers and other learners who will participate in the process are not potential infection contacts,” asked a parent at Nairobi Primary School.
TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia has already directed all teachers to be registered where they are presently living to facilitate the learning programme.
However, head teachers said some regions/counties may have more teachers compared to others while in some cases, there may be more learners than teachers.
“When schools were closed these teachers went to their villages or places they have built their homes. And this means that some counties will have more teachers as others have only a few,” said Indimuli.
A proposal has been made to also rope in university and college graduates, social workers and counselling psychologists to support community-based learning.
Parents and teachers also proposed involvement of more volunteers from faith- based organisations and community health workers to support teachers when the home-based teaching is rolled out.
A recent TSC report tabled in Parliament revealed that Nairobi County is leading among counties with more primary and secondary teachers.
Even though counties such as Bungoma, Kakamega, Migori, Embu, Kisii and Kiambu have huge teacher deficits, they have higher number of teachers compared to some regions.
“However, these teachers may have moved to their regions or home counties, which means that the numbers may change,” said Indimuli.
It is also emerging that there may not be enough open spaces within estates that will allow conducive learning, raising questions whether schools compounds would be used for the programme.
In a circular to all Commission Regional Directors, County Directors and Sub-County Directors, TSC advices that learning will take place in open spaces within the communities.
Teachers yesterday said such spaces may not be adequate for all learners, with nearby schools cited as better options for hosting learners while observing Covid-19 protocols.
“Most villages and estates do not have big halls or huge open spaces that may facilitate this kind of learning. It means that schools will be used to teach and this will essentially allow teachers to even touch on curriculum,” said a secondary school teacher.
However, whether schools should be open for the community-based learning is another headache, given that the ministry had said schools will remain shut till January.
A senior ministry official said use of school compounds may be inevitable, as TSC has instructed school heads to be in schools once per week to monitor learning.
Experts yesterday said if schools compounds are open for use by learners, the ministry will be on the spot for not allowing normal structured curriculum delivery to facilitate administration of national examinations and transition of students.
TSC has already directed that each class be organised in groups of 15, as much as possible according to learners’ classes, to ensure that the topics under discussion are relevant, suitable and appropriate.
And teachers have also been instructed to provide learning activities in reading and numeracy and ‘other subjects of interest’ to learners to keep them engaged.
Education stakeholders also raised issues about discipline among teachers and students during community learning.
Even though the guidelines say that Ministry of Interior will ensure all learners attend the programmes, parents questioned who will supervise the teachers to monitor their behaviour.
“We are entrusting them with our children and we need to know how safe they will be in their hands during the sessions,” said another parent.
Macharia has warned that the code of regulations as well as the code of conduct and ethics for teachers shall prevail.