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Why this week is critical as learners and teachers settle down for challenging term

By Augustine Oduor | January 18th 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Standard Eight pupils at Nyali School in Mombasa County on November 6, 2020. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

The government and education sector players will keenly be observing events of this week as they will determine the successful return to normal learning.

Compliance with the Covid-19 protocols among learners and teachers will be tested after the school community spent first two weeks in the institutions.

Primary and secondary school heads yesterday said most learners dropped their guard in the third week when schools opened for Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four classes late last year.

Some teachers say during the partial schools opening last year, most learners and teachers were not keen to wear masks and clear breach of some of the protocols was glaring during games and boarding sessions.

Frequent hand-washing protocols and temperature taking were also relaxed, as school communities assumed it was back to normal life.

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“We know that after two weeks in school teachers and learners will now start to assume and ignore some of the protocols. But we have a duty to enforce these protocols and we shall make sure we do our best,” said Nicholas Gathemia, Kenya Primary School Heads Association chairman.

Nyali School pupils sanitizing before going to class in Mombasa County on November 6, 2020. The school has equipped itself with enough sanitizers and face masks for its staff and pupils. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Ministry of Education guidelines also require schools to set up guidance and counselling plans and psycho social support systems in schools.

Teachers are required to constitute Covid-19 response committees to coordinate response strategies.

These teams comprise five members, comprising one learner/trainee, one non-teaching staff, one Board of Management member and two teachers.

According to the government document, schools are also expected to have training sessions for resource mobilisation to supplement State funding.

Schools' BoMs, county education boards, sub-counties Covid-19 response teams and parents’ associations should be trained on how to mobilise resources to plug the deficits.

Full learning is also expected to start after teachers and learners have settled.

Some head teachers said a number of tutors and learners were still settling down after prolonged closure of schools.

Navigating Covid-19 protocols and adapting to the new normal also ate into learning time as some learners were still reported back to school.

Secondary schools adopted a reporting plan as part of the strategy to beat Covid-19 infections.

Dust settled

“The dust has now settled and we expect all teachers and learners to be fully in class and covering the syllabus. For the candidate classes its now serious work and preparations for the examinations,” said Gathemia.

The Kenya National Examinations Council has also scheduled assessments for the rest of the classes to gauge their understanding of subject areas, 10 months after schools closed. The assessments will run till Friday.

Whether there were any Covid-19 infections during the last two weeks of opening will also be known this week when symptoms start to show.

Covid-19 affects different people in different ways, but the most vulnerable are persons aged 58 years and above and those with underlying conditions.

The coronavirus symptoms take 10 to 14 days to show and teachers and parents will be keenly following the events of this week.

Some of the infected people develop mild to moderate illnesses and may recover without hospitalisation.

Primary school headteachers and principals of secondary schools said this week would be crucial even for teachers aged 58 years or above, who opted to work from school.

Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said about 17,400 teachers aged 58 or above opted to report to school.

The commission has, however, requested the teachers to work remotely and said they should participate in other roles such as marking, preparing lesson plans and schemes of work.

Assured of their jobs

Dr Macharia said the teachers, even those with underlying conditions, were assured of their jobs and asked them to work from home.

“No one would wish to punish teachers because they are working from home. But it is also true that most of the teachers just want to be in school, having been home for long,” she said.

Individual teachers who spoke to The Standard said they were emboldened by the boost in teachers’ schemes that was upgraded to cover all Covid-19 related illnesses.

“All efforts are being made to ensure that all teachers under medical attention receive the best care so they get well and resume work,” said Macharia.

Kenya Secondary School Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli expressed hope for healthy staff.

“We are hopeful that our teachers will remain safe and continue to serve the children under the present realities. We have a team of dedicated staff and they are ready to serve,” said Mr Indimuli.

He, however, said teachers who felt they were at risk of contracting the virus could work from home.

Data from the TSC shows that 36 teachers have died of Covid-19 since the pandemic hit Kenya in March last year.

The data shows that 209 teachers have recovered from the virus, 92 are on home-based care and nine hospitalised. Of the 345 teachers affected by the virus, 159 are men and 186 women.

This is also the week when all the 600,000 desks should be delivered to schools, according to the directive by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

Speaking after a multi-sectoral meeting on January 3, Prof Magoha said all desks would have been delivered to schools within two weeks.

The delivery deadline lapsed on Friday. But The Standard established that some counties were still reporting a delivery rate of between 50 per cent and 60 per cent, raising fear that the deadline set by Magoha might not be met.

This means schools targeted by these desks, chairs and lockers may still have to use local plans during lessons.

Covid 19 Time Series


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