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Learners’ health and safety add to teachers’ work burden

By Augustine Oduor | January 5th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

A Kakamega Primary School teacher takes pupils’ temperature during school opening yesterday. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

The huge burden teachers face in the new school realities emerged yesterday as learners reported to schools for the first time in 10 months. 

Images of teachers checking learners’ temperatures, guiding on the correct use of masks, directing on handwashing and ensuring safe distances in crowded classes were common on Day One of schools re-opening.

Long queues were spotted in many schools as teachers lined up the children to inspect whether they were compliant with Covid-19 requirements.

And when they got to classes – whether in closed or open spaces – helping children understand Covid-19, causes and hazards and what is expected of them, were added roles played by teachers in new measures to curb the spread of the virus.

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These new roles for teachers are contained in the Ministry of Education’s Guidelines on Health and Safety Protocols for Reopening of Basic Education Institutions amid Covid-19 Pandemic.

The guidelines have put teachers at the heart of successful management of Covid-19 in schools and also exert pressure on them to ensure a successful rollout of re-opening plans. This is over and above the normal curriculum delivery expected of them.

Kahi Indimuli, the Secondary School Heads Association national chair, said teachers are professionals who just need to be supported to work.

“We just need to be supported and we can work because we love the children and we are up to the task,” Indimuli said.

He added that teachers and heads of schools would do all they can to implement the guidelines spelt out by the Ministry of Health.

The guidelines provide clear and actionable guidance on measures for physical re-opening, safe operations through prevention, early detection, and control of Covid-19 in education institutions.

And they will apply to pre-primary schools, primary, secondary, adult and continuing education centres and teacher training colleges.

According to the guidelines, teachers are from this week required to communicate to parents and learners on the health and safety measures put in place to guarantee health and safety.

They are also required to follow up on all cases of absenteeism in liaison with the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government to minimise school dropouts.

Broadly, adherence to right class sizes, maintaining safe social distances, making available adequate clean running water, liquid soap/hand sanitisers and monitoring temperatures are mandatory for the teacher.

Enhancing health and hygiene practices, provision of mental health and psycho-social support for learners and staff, continuous review of schools’ daily routine and well-thought-out procedure of handling suspected Covid-19 case are also roles to be overseen by teachers.

Minimal learning to cover the syllabus took place yesterday as teachers took time adjusting to the new realities of ensuring the safety of learners.

And what may require teachers’ keen eye is the requirement that they develop criteria for identifying learners or trainees and staff who may need specialised psycho-social support and link them to certified counsellors and, or social workers.

“Identify learners and, or trainees, teachers and other staff with pre-existing health conditions and ensure appropriate health attention,” reads the guidelines.

Once learning starts, teachers are expected to institute psychological counselling for learners, some of whom came from families affected by the virus.

Akello Misori, the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general said some children, who may have lost their parents, guardians or siblings to the virus, would require psychological support upon re-opening of schools.

“Besides losing parents, breadwinners and loved ones, many learners have suffered economic and social traumas that will affect them for years,” Misori said.

By the close of business yesterday, some 96,908 infections had been recorded in Kenya and 1,686 people had died of the virus.

Faith Nafula, a counselling psychologist, said that teachers would have to institute counselling sessions to assist children to adjust to new school realities.

She said that some of the learners may come from homes that underwent domestic violence occasioned by prolonged closures.

“There will obviously be a slow start and these sessions will play a key role in integrating children into the school system,” Nafula said.

This means that teachers will be forced to institute guidance and counselling services in addition to routine curriculum delivery.

“Strengthen the guidance and counselling departments as well as chaplaincy services in the institutions,” read the guideline.

And having stayed home for 10 months, the guidelines require teachers to prepare structured and regular spiritual services for the institutions.


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