CS Magoha chairs crisis meeting for reopening schools

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha. [File, Standard]

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has given assurance that money for the Board of Management (BOM) teachers and non-teaching staff in public schools are already disbursed and that the delay is occasioned by the normal cash flow issues in government.

Speaking after an education stakeholders meeting on Monday, Magoha fired back at critics blaming him for the delay as he said that such people ought to know how government works.

“BOM teachers should actually now have been paid; the bona fide ones and I have said that many times. The cabinet and the government approved their payments over six weeks ago and that position has not changed,” said CS Magoha.

The BOM teachers have gone without pay since March 2020 and the expected stimulus package of Sh10,000 per month will help them cope for five months till December before schools open in January. 

The CS also carried a surprise for non-teaching staff who will also payment package which is currently being worked on by the Ministry.

“We are also going to ensure that money for the payment of all other non-academic workers in schools is made available and forwarded to them.”

However, the anticipated news on when schools will be opened is still a subject under discussion and the CS has urged people to avoid any speculation but wait for news from his office before September 25.

“We have decided to reactivated the smaller stakeholders group between now and Saturday to work on the finer details of the proposals that shall be interrogated by this larger stakeholders group and even at that time if I succeed in getting backroom approval then I will tell you what we have decided,” said the Education CS. 

Even so, CS Magoha has continued expressing his fear that achieving social distance in public schools is going to be a huge mountain to summit. In an attempt to climb that mountain, the government will attempt to get masks for the vulnerable and less fortunate children.

This comes at a time when the coronavirus cases continue to plummet, making Kenya 4 days away from reaching a 14-day-straight positivity rate of under 5 per cent which will mean the curve will have been flattened.

As part of the preparations for the reopening, the government also set up Sh1.9 billion form the making of desks for primary secondary schools. The government will be spending Sh3,800 per desk and will use Sh1 billion for the furniture in secondary and Sh900 million for primary schools respectively.

During an intergovernmental virtual summit, which was chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Magoha also revealed that the government had plans to buy masks for learners and that would cost Sh35 per pair of re-washable masks. But he cautioned that it would cost a lot of money to mask all the learners when schools reopen.
Besides these are Sh15.4 billion expected to help secondary schools to step up the preparation process as well as the recruitment of 10,000 teachers by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to bridge the gap.

Last week Tuesday CS Magoha bashed the media claiming that he had been portrayed as indecisive after changing his position on the reopening of schools. Initially, the CS had hinted that schools would open in January 2021, but after the Covid-19 cases dropped; he said that schools could possibly open in November 2020.

“We will not open (schools) in November. The fourth estate has continued religiously to write what I have not said. The opening of school will be in January 2021, but it will also depend on how the virus behaves and the ability of the schools to comply with some things,” he said.

Schools will also be required to erect tents and convert additional spaces like sheds to be able to be used as classes and boarding areas as the government sprints for the January reopening. Boarding schools will be required to convert their spacious dining halls into dormitories to create additional space for learners.

Schools have also been directed to use the maintenance and improvement vote head received during this year’s First Term to improve facilities. Each institution received about Sh4,000 per student, and it has emerged that some schools have already had their projects approved to start.

Even though such extensive plans have been put down by the government to facilitate school reopening, school heads have expressed their frustration in not receiving the share of sh13.3 billion pledged to undertake hygiene and social distancing measures.