As the country grapples with the headache of whether to reopen learning institutions, the fate of millions of learners in Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) remains unknown.
While stakeholders in basic education have been pushing to have Standard Eight and Form Four candidates resume studies to avoid losing an entire academic year, little attention has been given to pre-schoolers and their teachers who are at home with no jobs and salaries.
According to 2019 data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, there are 46,530 pre-primary institutions. Out of these, 28,383 are public and 18,147 private.
Data also shows that 1,393,719 boys were enrolled in pre-primary one (PP1) and pre-primary two (PP2), while 1,344,868 girls were enrolled in PP1 and PP2 last year.
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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has warned that learning losses could be disproportionately larger in the first two or three years of primary school compared to children in older grades as nearly all types of learning assessments have been affected by school closures.
A recent study by the World Health Organisation and Unicef showed children who stayed out of school for a long period suffered slow mental development while others were exposed to sexual molestation and other forms of violence.
Otoa Sifuna, a teacher and an education expert, said a shaky foundation affects a child’s opportunity for holistic learning and growth.
“ECD is the most crucial developmental for children. If it is missed, it will be difficult to transit to upper levels,” Mr Sifuna said.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic had posed a serious challenge where children were learning through watching and not doing.
“They have become passive recipients, and that is not learning. The government now needs to look at parental involvement, empower home-schooling and provide access to learning materials.
“At a certain age bracket, a child is supposed to learn certain things. When a child is ready to go to pre-unit and is still being forced to remain where he is, this will affect his development and further put a strain on infrastructure,” Sifuna said. He warned that funding has become a problem and teachers have lost morale due to lack of pay while many others have lost jobs due to closure of schools