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Tough times loom as schools close and prepare for packed new year

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | July 19th 2021
Pupils walk to school. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Schools have closed for a one-week break, paving way for a busy new academic year expected to start on July 26.

When the schools open, all learners will be in session for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in March last year. This presents a logistical nightmare for schools, which are expected to create extra space and facilities such as desks to meet social distancing.

At the same time, education experts have cautioned about looming mental fatigue among teachers and learners, as the new academic year will only allow short breaks with long weeks of study.

The learners are only on a one-week break between July 17 and 25. All the learners will open school for Term One in the 2021 academic year on July 26. The 10-week term will end on October 10.

The calendar further dictates that the half-term break, which previously lasted a week, will only last three days between August 26 and 29.

And after another one-week holiday between October 2 and 10, learners will return to school for the second term, which shall run from October 11 to December 23.

The Christmas holiday shall only last 10 days between December 24 and January 2, 2022. According to the calendar, third term under the 2021 academic year shall run from January 3 to March 4, with the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination scheduled for between March 7 and 10.

The Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) shall be administered between March 11 and April 1, bringing to a close the busy academic calendar.

Counselling psychologists say with the changes in academic calendar and school routine under the packed timelines, children will require to be prepared to adjust to the new realities.

Since games are still banned in schools while only a few outdoor activities are permitted, experts argue that children may be victims of stress.

“Mental adjustment is a whole issue that must be addressed. There must be deliberate support to help children make adjustments during the school calendar,” said Loice Noo, a counselling psychologist.

She said children must be supported to adjust because their school schedules have changed and programmes altered.

“Let’s use weekends to rest the children. Parents must also know that the extra tuition they used to provide can no longer be done because the children are overwhelmed,” said Noo.

Teachers who spoke to The Standard said the packed academic schedules will also require adjustments from teachers.

Teachers also wear out. We just finished the academic calendar and we are starting another one in a week’s time and this will require mental preparedness on our part too,” said a high school teacher.

And with all learners expected to be back in schools, the nightmare of containing Covid-19 infections is another headache that the government must anticipate.

“We request that schools management step up to keep children safe and also to make use of available spaces to space out the children,” said Nicholas Maiyo, the National Parents Association chairman.

Parents have already raised concerns over safety of learners, with reports indicating that the Covid-19 fourth wave could be experienced this month.

The Ministry of Health has cautioned that infections may peak this month, raising anxiety in the education sector.

Stakeholders now want precautions taken to mitigate infections during the one week children will be away from school.

“We have always said the children are safer at school. But now we are told of a new wave that will peak this month, a time when there will be movement of children,” said Kahi Indimuli, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha) chairman.

Indimuli said part of the planning includes timely release of the capitation money to help schools prepare for the new group reporting.

Primary School Heads Association Chairman Jonson Nzioka said schools need money to prepare for the children.

“We do not wish to drop the ball in terms of abiding by the protocols and this calls for people planning with adequate money,” said Nzioka.

The government released Sh6.6 billion, being payment of capitation due for third term, which ended last week. 

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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