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Experts warn about learners burn out over new school calendar

By Augustine Oduor | November 19th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Teacher Dancan Ochieng takes Class Eight pupils through a lesson at Arya Primary School in Kisumu on November 18, 2020. {Denish Ochieng, Standard}

Education experts are worried that learners may suffer fatigue under the compressed school calendar released by the Ministry of Education on Monday.

The move means a heavy workload for teachers and learners between 2021 and 2022 of rapid-learning for schools to recover lost time.

This, experts, said would lead to burnout that may fuel stress levels and high dropout rates among learners.

Burnout is a state of mental, physical or emotional exhaustion, which may occur when learners are exposed to too much learning content with little time to rest or refresh.

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“The school calendar makes some assumptions that will certainly not hold.... It ignores what stress and burnout can do to both learners and teachers and this may even lead to unrests,” said Emmanuel Manyasa, the Executive Director at Usawa Agenda.

Dr Manyasa said the new school calendar should not be about mere completion of the syllabus and transitions.

“What do we want to achieve by compressing the calendar? This will not help children to learn,” said Manyasa.

John Mugo, Zizi Afrique Executive Director, said of the eight school terms, four are 10 weeks long.

He said only two terms are 11 weeks long while two others have nine weeks.

“For 8-4-4 curriculum, this implies a lot of content compression. The children who are already behind will fall further behind, since we may not even have time or teacher energy for remedial,” said Dr Mugo.

He said the holidays are also too short for learners to recharge. “Of the six non-examination holidays in the two years, four are only a week-long,” said Mugo.

He said teachers and learners may face burnout and become ineffective with stress levels going up.

“Likely to be affected most are primary school children in boarding schools. This might be the time for parents to just withdraw them to day schools,” said Mugo.

Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) maintained that there will be no shortcuts in syllabus coverage as proposed by some teachers.

KICD Chief Executive Officer Charles Ongondo said the curriculum must be covered in full even as he called for innovative ways of doing so.

“Ways can be found to cover more work without necessarily reducing the content,” said Prof Ongondo.

He was reacting to a proposal by some school heads that only essential content be taught to help children transition.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said the government was determined to ensure a safe reopening and learning.

He said the reopening measures are lessons drawn from the partial reopening that started in October.

“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 learners and teachers,” said Prof Magoha.

Okwach Abagi, public policy analyst and senior researcher at the Centre for Research and Development, said congested school calendar was a bad idea that would not work effectively for the children.

“A better idea was to keep children at home and allow them to start academic calendar in September next year,” said Prof Abagi.


Education experts Ministry of Education George Magoha
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