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Why next five days are crucial for full schools re-opening

By Augustine Oduor | October 18th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Pupils of Githunguri Ranching Primary School in Ruiru. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Buoyed by the excitement to resume lessons, most schools have recorded high turnout since partial in-person learning resumed on Monday.

Teachers in public schools, motivated by prompt payment of salaries, also turned out in their numbers to receive the learners.

Hanging on the hope that steady income may start flowing once parents start paying fees, teachers in private schools also reported to work in good numbers.

With only Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four learners in schools, the partial opening made it possible for social distancing as most institutions managed to split classes into groups of 15.

However, tomorrow marks the start of the second week, with the next five days critical in deciding whether the rest of learners will be recalled.

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Reports indicate that Grade 1-3, class five to seven and Form One to Three may be recalled back to class by first week of next month.

This means the government will be racing against time to fix the gaps noted by field officers during the one-week monitoring exercise.

A spot check across most schools reveals that the Grade Four, Class Eight and Form Four leaders were spread across the rest of classrooms to meet the social distancing challenge, with questions raised about sitting arrangements when the rest of learners join schools.

Kenya Primary Schools Association (Kpsa) national chairman Nicholas Gathemia said meeting social distance will be a major problem when all children report to school.

“For now we do not have a problem because we have spread them across classes. But we do not know what will happen when the rest of classes come,” said Gathemia.

He said children are forgetful and reminding them all the time on how to play and protect each other, is a major challenge.

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary-General Akello Misori said infrastructure will remain a serious challenge that must be addressed.

“Schools will need to be innovating in creating additional spaces that would accommodate learners when all classes resume lessons,” said Misori.

He said the first week of learning has demonstrated that boarding facilities will be a serious challenge that must be addressed.

In some schools, learners were forced to sit on the floor as there were no adequate desks.

The government is yet to deliver the more than 600,000 desks, chairs and lockers being assembled locally.

School heads reported that in most schools, some children reported without face masks as parents said they had no proper communication about their responsibility.

Kenya National Parents Association chair Nicholas Maiyo said the ministry had left the purchase of masks to parents.

“We had to dig deeper into school coffers to purchase masks for children, especially those in boarding schools because we could not turn them away,” said Kahi Indimuli, secondary heads association chairman.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said Kenya Commercial Bank had donated 1 million masks and appealed to other well-wishers and corporate companies to chip in.

“We are yet to see the masks being distributed by the ministry,” said a parent in Kakamega County.

Maiyo, however, said the government should make available uniform masks for parents to buy.

Each child is expected to have at least two reusable face masks.

Education rights activist Ouko Muthoni said parents were not well sensitised on schools reopening.

“The opening date was kept a secret only to be communicated abruptly. There was poor communication and parents felt ambushed and that is why some schools recorded as low as 40 per cent turn out,” said Muthoni.

She said leaving the responsibility to parents to buy masks will compromise the government’s ability to control Covid-19 spread in schools. Questions also emerged why teachers were not given protective gear. Some schools were also reported not have hand washing points and thermo guns. And in most schools, isolation centers had not been set aside.


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