Why learners had to be sent back to class

Arranged desks and chairs at Moi Primary school in Nakuru County on September 29, 2020. Most of the schools within the County were doing school general cleaning exercise as they prepare for the opening of schools once announced. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Desperate effort to salvage loss of an entire academic year, fear of increased hopelessness among learners and the near-full return to normalcy across all sectors pushed the government to open schools.

The Standard established that the government was also not keen on dealing with the consequences of a wasted 2020 academic year and delayed transition of learners.

With increasing cases of pregnancies, drug and substance abuse, forced marriages, forced female genital mutilations, promiscuity, and child labour, costs of keeping schools shut were dire.

It also emerged that with the economy fully opened with nearly all sectors returning to normalcy, it was not productive to keep children at home.

Sources in government familiar with the schools opening details said that with social joints such as bars and markets opened and political activities heightened, children were no longer safe at home.

It also emerged that further delayed resumption of learning for candidate classes would have posed a serious crisis during transition, especially for Grade Four, in 2022.

This is the year all Grade Four learners, who are the pioneer class of the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), are expected to join Junior Secondary School after completing Grade Six.

Data shows that the 1.6 million children presently in Grade Four will join Junior Secondary schools the same year when the 1.3 million presently in Class Seven (under 8-4-4 system) will join Form One.

Enrollment projections point at a double intake that will require huge infrastructure investments and any delay in opening schools now may interrupt the smooth transition.

Two options

Faced with two options presented by Ministry of Education — opening schools immediately or keeping school shut till January next year — the government opted for early resumption of learning.

Immediate resumption of learning option meant beginning with partial opening schools in October and progressively admitting the rest for classes to salvage the academic year.

The Cabinet yesterday adopted this proposal tabled by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

The second option of holding on to January meant all learners start classes at the start of next year.

This would have resulted to mass repetition of learners, stretching available resources and destroying hopes of the young generation.

Nicholas Maiyo, the chair of Kenya National Association of Parents, said opening in October is cost-effective to parents.

“We are starting in Second Term and those who had paid First Term fees will not pay again. Those who had paid full year fees will not be bothered and this is a good thing,” Maiyo said.

Primary and secondary school heads yesterday welcomed the move but asked the ministry to issue a comprehensive fees guideline.

“There needs to be a clear direction on fees so that parents are clear on their obligations to avoid unnecessary tension between school administrators and parents,” said Kahi Indimuli, the chair of Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association.

The National Treasury is expected to release Sh13.3 billion to go towards preparations for re-opening schools which will include social distance measures, hand washing and purchase of thermo guns.

Another Sh2.2 billion was planned to pay salaries for all teachers employed by the boards.

Parents will, however, shoulder the cost of masks. 

But Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) wants the government to provide masks.

Florence Mutua, the National Assembly Education Committee chair appealed to parents to ensure children go back to school.