The Ministry of Education will not close down the reopened schools despite the current spike of Covid-19 infections.
This, despite announcing that up to 35 schools had by yesterday reported Covid-19 cases, with 17 learners, 32 teachers and four non-teaching staff reportedly affected since the institutions were opened for Form Four, Standard Eight and Grade Four learners.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang did not reveal the details of schools where cases had been reported but said the statistics included those of Tononoka and Star of the Sea Secondary schools in Mombasa.
“I get daily briefs by 5 am from our eight regional directors of education, who by then must have received theirs from county directors. So we have a daily update on any reported case,” Dr Kipsang told the National Assembly Education Committee.
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Despite the rising cases of infection, the PS maintained that closing down schools would not be an option. Instead, the ministry is working on opening schools for the remaining learners.
Kipsang said the empirical evidence they had indicated that learners were safer from the virus in schools than at home. The ministry, he said, is not, therefore, entertaining any thoughts of sending learners back home.
“I am here to tell you that closing of the schools is not an option for us. We are not looking at that despite the recent spike of infections unless of course we are otherwise advised by Health officials,” said Kipsang.
He said their fear was that some parents, who are not paying attention to the regulations to contain the virus, would infect their children, who would, in turn, take the same to schools.
Kipsang said they were monitoring the trend of the recent wave.
“We are in a very robust engagement with the Health ministry and the National Emergency Committee on Covid-19, where I am a member, so that we can assess when best to have the rest of the student population back to learning,” he said.
He added that the other challenge was learners with underlying health issues, who could be severely affected in case they got infected. He asked parents to inform school administrations of any such conditions to ensure necessary care was given to the children.
“We will be hypocritical, punishing our children by not taking them to school, claiming that they may not wear masks and keep the required social distance, yet we as parents are not doing the same. We are attending political rallies without masks, and even recently I saw some parents dancing to Jerusalema in a bus without taking the necessary precautions,” said Kipsang.
The ministry said it would have to reopen schools for all classes despite the inability to ensure social distancing due to the shortage of infrastructure to host the learners.
Kipsang said if they were to meet the requirement, then a class of 50 learners would have to have its capacity reduced to only 20, which would mean building triple of the current classrooms in some schools.
“It is a challenge that is also facing other counties. What we currently have is the infrastructure that we have built over the last 60 years. It is not possible that we can build the required ones to meet this requirement, but we will keep trying to improve until we get a vaccine,” he said.
He said many learners were doing well in ensuring they were always in masks but admitted that it was a challenge for all learners to be in masks, citing few philanthropists who had come on board to help schools acquire the necessity.