Teachers’ headache as children drop virus guard in new schools reality

Lurambi MP Bishop Titus Khamala joins Matende Isukuti cultural dancers during official opening of the of classrooms. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

School heads report that Covid-19 scare is no longer an issue among learners, who only follow protocols when a teacher is nearby.

Primary and secondary school heads have exposed the overwhelming task of enforcing the Covid-19 protocols, as it emerged that learners have largely dropped their guard.

The headteachers say three weeks after the partial reopening of schools, the coronavirus scare is no longer an issue among learners, with reports indicating that students have returned to normal school life.

This comes as Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said plans are underway to convene another stakeholders’ meeting to discuss fate of other learners still at home.

“We are going to meet as stakeholders soon and as government and when time comes we may have to be bold enough to tell you when the rest of schools shall open,” said Prof Magoha.

He said even with Covid-19 infections surging, the government is considering opening schools for the rest of learners.

“Yes, Covid is spiking and it is not only in this country. What we are grappling with is whether to open for the other children or not,” said Magoha.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) Chairman Kahi Indimuli said most learners are no longer routinely washing their hands while many are not wearing masks with the seriousness they did at opening.

Old habits

It also emerged that the social distancing guideline is no longer a concern among students, with heads saying learners have retreated to their old habits.

“These learners now think that after two weeks in school without any infections they are now good to go and can overlook some guidelines,” said Indimuli.

He said teachers are now facing more challenging times in enforcing the social distancing rules among learners in schools.

“Most learners are not wearing face masks, they do not care so much about proper use and hygiene of the masks and they also do not wash hands as frequently as it were before and this is a the new challenge in schools,” said Indimuli.

In boarding schools, Indimuli said, children are no longer observing social distancing in their dormitories, a habit some heads said starts from the classrooms.

“In the absence of teachers these learners just interact as if it is back to normal,” said another school head.

The revelations emerged as virus infections went up, presenting a dilemma on whether schools should close again or open for the rest of the learners.

Primary school heads also expressed concerns of ill preparedness to handle Covid-19 as the numbers continue to surge.

Kenya Primary Schools Head Teachers Association (Kepsha) Chairman Nicholas Gathemia said schools are yet to be provided with mitigation measures to handle challenges.

Gathemia said teachers have not been sensitised well enough on management of Covid-19 in schools.

“This poses a high risk to both the teacher, parents and learners daily,” he said.

According to the ministries of Health and Education, schools are expected to monitor Covid-19 symptoms by checking temperatures of students often and looking for signs such as coughing, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, chills, muscle ache and headache.

Kepsha said primary schools have for a long time been overlooked and discriminated in disbursement of free education funding, which has stagnated at Sh1,470 per pupil annually for almost 20 years.

According to Gathemia, this money is paid in three phases and comes late in the term.

“This hinders early preparation for teaching and learning and at the end results in under covering of the syllabus,” he said.

Experts warned that re-closing schools means returning children to the possibility of community infections and uncertainty over scheduled March examinations and transition of the learners.

Even though recalling the rest of learners to schools will guarantee transition to next classes and help manage many social ills such as drug abuse and early pregnancies, the fear of infections in schools is also real.

But teachers who spoke to the Saturday Standard said children are safer in school.

Covid 19 Time Series