Some 36 teachers have died of Covid-19 since March as calls to tighten reopening plans rise.
Data from the teachers’ medical insurance scheme reveals that at least one death has been recorded every month since June.
And in other months, up to three deaths have been recorded in data that also reflected the national infections and death figures.
Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) Chairman Kahi Indimuli said so far 15 principals have died from the disease.
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This means nearly half of the total deaths have claimed classroom teachers.
“We have seen that all protections should now be geared towards the teacher, given the number of deaths,” said Indimuli.
The deaths have been recorded in 15 counties, with Nairobi recording the highest at seven fatalities.
Uasin Gishu, Bungoma, Nakuru, Kisumu and Bomet counties have each recorded three deaths since the pandemic started.
Nyandarua, Mombasa, Baringo, Homa Bay, Murang’a, Kakamega, Kwale and Kilifi counties have recorded one death each.
Overall, the schema data, however, shows teachers who have died of coronavirus are way smaller compared to monthly data of deaths from other conditions.
Between October and November, data from Minet Kenya, the teachers’ insurance provider, shows that some 928 teachers have died from conditions not related to Covid-19.
The highest deaths were recorded in October this year at 105 cases.
A status report by Minet Kenya released early this year shows that malaria is the leading ailment treated among teachers followed by pneumonitis, anaemia and gastritis.
Other diseases that teachers suffer from include gastroenteritis, septicaemia, peptic ulcer disease, hypertension and tonsillitis.
The report listed Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Meru, Nakuru, Bungoma, Kisumu and Kakamega as counties with the highest hospital visits by teachers even before the outbreak of coronavirus.
Minet Kenya chief executive officer Sammy Muthui said all illnesses in a medical cover are paid for to the annual benefit limits. He assured that Covid-19, like any other ailment, is covered to the policy limits as per the benefits table.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary-General Akello Misori said the Covid-19 deaths recorded were a result of pre-existing conditions.
“Our examination of cases indicates that most teachers who have died from the virus had pre-existing health conditions,” said Misori.
He also said teachers have been victims of community infections that have now penetrated all counties.
Misori said the union has written to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), expressing concerns over the management of teachers with pre-existing health conditions.
“We are demanding a circular to set the frameworks for working from home for teachers above 58 years and those suffering from conditions like diabetes so that they can take advantage of government protection for vulnerable groups,” he said.
TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia directed all teachers in high-risk age and those with pre-existing conditions to work from home.
Dr Macharia directed that the teachers be assigned other duties even as questions arose over the proposed mode of working from home.
“They can be utilised in offering duties such as preparing schemes of work, teaching aids and marking, among others. We assure them of the safety of their jobs,” she said.
Kuppet, however, said information from the schools reveals confusion on the management of the directive.
“Our findings revealed that headteachers, principals and TSC county directors do not have proper direction on how to implement the Commission’s directive on working from home,” said Misori.
It is said that about 100,000 teachers may fall in the high-risk age bracket, most of them head of institutions.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said the death rate points to the urgency to make schools safe ahead of reopening. “This means schools need adequate funding to fully comply with the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols when learning resumes,” said Sossion.
“Schools must ensure social distancing is maintained, masks are worn and hand-washing protocols are fully adhered to,” he added.
He cautioned that if the health protocols cannot be guaranteed, then schools should not open.