Short holidays, national exams just before Christmas, delayed enrolment for preschoolers and prolonged recovery time are some of the new measures the government has announced to normalise the school calendar.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha yesterday announced a comprehensive three-year guideline and dates for resumption of studies, months after learning was disrupted when schools were shut after the country recorded its first case of Covid-19 in March.
It is now official that almost an entire school term will be lost next year when learners will be required to stay home for seven weeks to allow for smooth facilitation of national examinations and to ease the transition to the next calendar year.
According to the new plan, all schools will reopen fully on January 4, next year. The learners who have been home waiting for the second phase reopening of schools will continue with term two curricula upon resuming to align with the candidates and Grade Four learners who opened in October.
On March 19, 2021, all learners except Class Eight and Form Four candidates will go on a seven-week holiday to allow for KCPE and KCSE administration and marking.
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Stay at home
KCPE will commence on March 22 and end on March 24, 2021. KCSE oral and practical exams will start on March 8. Theory will start on March 26 and end on April 21.
Grade Four and incoming Form One (Class 8 graduates) learners will stay at home as other learners complete term three, which will begin in May and end in July 2021.
Grade Four and Class Eight pupils will then transition to Grade Five and Form One respectively in July 2021. It is also in July that four-year-olds will join the school.
In 2022, KCPE will start on March 7 while KCSE will start on March 11. In 2023, KCPE will commence in late November, and KCSE will be done from early December through to Christmas eve.
The shortened terms, however, come with an extra burden of fees for parents who are already experiencing economic hardships due to effects of Covid-19.
In the new schedule, there are terms when students will break only for a week, meaning parents will have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay fees for the next term almost immediately.
For instance, when learners come home at the end of third term in July of 2021, parents have only one week to raise fees for the next term.
Similarly, when they close school on October 10, 2021 at the end of term one, parents will have to get fees to send their children back to school for term two, which starts a week later. According to the new schedule, learners take off for a Christmas break on December 24 until January 2, 2022, before resuming for third term on January 3, 2022.
Based on the 2020 Ministry of Education fees guidelines, parents of children in secondary boarding schools pay an average of Sh54,000 per year apart from other costly requirements like uniforms.
If say a parent has two children in secondary school, they will need to pay Sh108,000 in July 2021 when first term of the next academic year begins. This will be after they have paid term three fees in May.
National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said yesterday they have agreed with the CS that fees remain unchanged for this academic year.
“The CS assured us that parents who had paid fees for the whole of 2020 are not required to pay anything. Those who paid for first term will now pay for the remaining two terms in January,” he said.
He said parents are in support of the reopening because the children have been adamant that they do not want to repeat classes.
Even with the changes, the education sector is staring at uncertain times as schools will open gates for all learners for in-person teaching as cases of Covid 19 continue to spike.
Parents yesterday expressed fears over the increasing infection rates, saying the mass recall of the learners may result in more cases in schools. With less than two months to the mass admissions, it is almost clear that plans will not be complete to create additional spaces to cure the social distancing headache.
Magoha said some Sh8.2 billion infrastructure projects were underway to open up spaces for learners in selected schools in line with Covid-19 protocols. But with January 4 opening date already set, insiders said that class sitting arrangements shall be back to normal as schools may not have expanded spaces to allow social distancing.
It was also not clear whether with the condensed term dates parents will pay less fees as some school terms have been lost by up to three weeks. Questions were also raised over the seven weeks holiday proposed after term two, with sector players saying that children will stay home longer again, having come from a prolonged stay.
Three days break
Magoha said it was the best decision to cover lost school term.
“We are confident that we will remain on the right trajectory to finding the winning formula that will ensure our learning institutions are safe for our learners and teachers,” said the CS.
It will take slightly more than two years before there is a semblance of normalcy in the academic calendar when learners report for term one in January.
Next year, the academic calendar will host two academic years. By the time schools will be breaking on Christmas Eve of 2021, they will be on term two of a new academic year. January will mark the resumption of term two of the lost year, and December will be the close of term two of the 2021 academic year.
The biggest burden will be borne by learners in 2022 when school weeks will be condensed and holidays shortened to normalise the academic calendar that has been pushed to 2023.
Between January 2022 and January 2023, the longest the learners will stay home is three weeks when candidates are sitting their KCSE exams. Unlike previous election years when the calendar would factor in the general election and prolong the August holidays, this electioneering year will be different. There will be a break of three days for the learners in August, around the time when the election is scheduled to be conducted.
In 2022 and 2023, KCPE and KCSE will be done in December, with the secondary exams ending a few days to Christmas.
There were mixed reactions to the new announcements made yesterday.
Kenya Secondary School Heads national chairman Kahi Indimuli said it was time for all learners to resume classes, adding that if students had stayed out longer, it would have led to an education crisis.
He says the schedule was drawn after long deliberations with stakeholders, and the initial suggestions were for all learners to resume in October.
“Parents were against it, so we thought it best for phased reopening. Children should not stay home longer. The more they wait, the more the cases of deviant behaviour and it will make it difficult for them to return,” he said.
He welcomed the proclamation by Teachers Service Commission (TSC) chief executive officer that teachers who contract Covid-19 in the line of duty will be covered by their insurance.
He, however, expressed concern that the National Health Insurance Fund that has partnered with the Ministry of Education to insure learners announced that they will not be taking care of Covid-19 cases.
Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori said while teachers’ workload may be affected, they should understand that these are not normal times.
“They should also appreciate as a gesture of goodwill that for the last eight months TSC has not cut their salaries despite them not going to work. They should also sacrifice. If we look at our rights, the compressed term dates will affect us negatively,” he said.
Erick Ochok, a parent in Kakamega worried about the surge of the disease and how it will affect the learners.
“If there were fears that they will contract the virus in October when the candidates were reporting, isn’t it more dangerous now that we are seeing more deaths,” he posed.
Nicholas Gathemia who represents the Kenya Primary School Heads Association said there was still a lot of uncertainty and the calendar might change mid-way depending on how the disease progresses.
“Now more than ever, people need to take personal responsibility. If coronavirus is not contained, the calendar might not take off,” said Gathemia.