Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha has cleared final year medical students to resume face-to-face learning and assessment saying the move will boost the country’s medical sector that is currently under strain due to Covid-19 pandemic.
In a circular sent to nine universities currently training medical students, Prof Magoha said the Covid-19 pandemic had ‘precipitated the need to assess’ medical students so as to increase the number of medical personnel in the health facilities.
The circular partly read: “In light of the Covid-19 situation which has precipitated an urgent need to train and assess medical students to support the dearth inadequate healthcare personnel to fight the pandemic, consideration has been given to the request for face-to-face learning and assessment of medical students. This is further informed by a physical inspection of facilities to ascertain the level of preparedness for the resumption of face-to-face learning.”
But the CS has insisted that the roll-out of the face-to-face examination must only be done in strict adherence to the health safety protocols set aside by the ministry of health and World Health Organisation (WHO).
The conditions are that the students must be properly oriented on the ‘donning and doffing of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear, properly dressed in their PPEs when rotating in the hospitals and the number of students must be limited to effect social distancing.
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The CS has also directed the universities to put in place measures to manage any suspected cases of Covid-19 among the learners.
“The University must manage any suspected Covid-19 cases affecting their students in their isolation and quarantine facilities awaiting results. The decision of home-based care or hospital management must be in accordance with Ministry of Health guidelines and protocols,” notes Prof Magoha in circular released on Monday.
The circular was sent to University of Nairobi, Mount Kenya, Moi, Egerton, Kenyatta, Kenya Methodist, Maseno and Uzima universities
It ends with a warning shot to the learning institutions that they would risk closure should any of them fail to implement the safety protocols.
Magoha’s directive was in response to a communication by Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Council addressed to the deans of schools of medicine and dentistry urging them to prepare clinical examinations of final year medical students.
Dated August 21, 2020, and copied to CS Magoha; KMPDU CEO Daniel Yumbya lauded the progress made by the students in online learning. He told the stakeholders of the need to swiftly adhere to the calendar by ensuring that is enough preparation for the students to sit for examinations.
“In light of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic and subsequent measures that have been put in place to limit the spread of the virus, among them, being the closure of universities, the council has hereby considered the issue of final year students undertaking their clinical exams in readiness for internship training placement thereafter,” said Yumbya.
The KMPDU boss also maintained that the exercise must be committal to the health safety guidelines.
“The deans must ensure that the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health (MoH) are strictly adhered to during the examination period,” Yumbya said.
The virus has paralysed learning after the government was forced to close all learning institutions. CS Magoha has been visiting tertiary institutions inspecting their preparedness for regulated reopening. However, last week, he cast doubts as to whether the higher learning would beat the September period that was earlier targeted for reopening.
The CS directed the universities that had rolled out online learning to continue doing so as they prepare for the reopening for face-to-face conventional studies.
Nonetheless, the online studies attracted criticism from the Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) members who said that the platform could encourage cheating in examination hence lowering the credibility of education.
“In a lecture hall of 300 with three supervisors, students are able to sneak in ‘mwakenya’ and compromise exams. Those advocating for online exams should know that all students will steal exams and graduate with first-class honours. This is sad for our education,” said UASU national vice-chairman Prof Mutuura Mberia.
Should the directive to allow medical students to take examination run unhampered, the CS could consider the decision to reopen school after months of closure to the virus.
On Monday, Magoha reiterated at the intergovernmental virtual conference that the government was angling towards reopening schools but such was subject to preparedness for adhering with the safety rules.
He pleaded with donors and parents to join hands and provide masks and water so that schools can open doors should the country overcome the virus.