SECTIONS
Premium

Parents, teachers in dilemma as schools close for elections

Students checking in at Sinyolo Girls in Kisumu after reporting back to the institution from the Christmas and New Year festive season. [Washington Onyango, Standard]

Parents are bracing for another financial burden as schools close this week ahead of the August 9 election.

Parents who spoke to The Standard said it is becoming an expensive affair due to the many interruptions of the school calendar.

It is barely a month after schools reopened for the second term. 

Further, some of the parents expressed fears over the safety of their children as they travel back home during the charged political campaigns.

Jane Wambui, a parent at Kakamega High School, said that it is becoming expensive to educate her children due to the frequent disruption of the school calendar.

‘‘I sent my boy to school a few weeks ago. I paid the school fees and parted with Sh1, 500 for transport. This week, I have to look for another Sh2,000 for him to travel back from Western Kenya,’’ said Wambui.

Seth Madoya, another parent, lamented that parents are paying fees, but students are spending more time at home than in school.

‘‘Since the year began, I have paid Sh90, 000 in school fees, and spent Sh27, 000 for my child’s transport in a private school. We are splashing money away when our children’s education is interrupted on a regular basis,’’ said Madoya.

Nicholas Maiyo, the National Parents Association chairman, said parents are likely to be faced with another burden of school fees when schools reopen after the elections.

Maiyo urged school heads to follow up on fees guidelines set by the Ministry of Education.

‘‘The challenge is that principals will demand school fees to be paid immediately when schools re-open. You will see students sent back home for fees. Most of the policies of the Ministry of Education are put on paper and left to gather dust without implementation,’’ Maiyo said.

Students are expected to break early for their midterm rest, which also coincides with the elections.

The midterm break will begin on August 6 and end on August 14.

The resumption date will solely depend on the electoral environment.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha attributed the changes to the adjustment of the poll date.

Over 23,000 public schools have been gazetted as polling centres.

“Given that a number of schools are polling stations and tallying centres during the elections, it has become necessary to make minor adjustments to Second Term dates to free up the institutions for use,” said Magoha.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association Association chairman Kahi Indimuli and Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) Johnson Nzioka said that schools will close a few days before elections to allow for the preparation of the polling centres.

‘‘The political temperatures could send the fear of unrest leading to panic closure of some institutions. This is a scenario all education stakeholders need to sit and review the calendar to accommodate for the election period,” Indimuli said.

Indimuli said that the schools will be affected if the election spills to re-run.

‘‘If the election spills beyond the one-week break, then the syllabus will be interrupted. It will force the ministry to keep students in school for a long time which is not recommended,’’ Indimuli said.

‘‘We have a short period to prepare the candidates, so shutting schools for more than a week will have an effect on their preparation,” he added.

On his part, Maiyo reiterated that extending the school holidays beyond a week will interfere with the candidate’s preparation for the national exams. 

KCPE exam will run between November 28 and December 1, while KCSE tests will be done from December 1 to December 23.

The pioneer Grade six learners will also sit their end-of-primary education tests from December 28 to 30.

Stanley Mwenesi, a teacher in a primary school, said some of the schools have initiated special learning schedules for makeup classes, especially for examination classes, to cover the time that will be taken for electoral activities.

“The only fear we have is if there will be a run-off in the presidential race, but as it stands, schools will be on half term, therefore, we believe that it will not affect the syllabus,” Mwenesi.

Magoha said there was a need to adjust the calendar to ensure that learners take their half-term break before the election date to allow for the institutions to be used as polling centres.

He explained that a precedent had been set in the 2017 repeat presidential election on October 26, which saw all schools closed to allow the institutions to be used as polling centres on the voting day.

“During the repeat presidential election, the Ministry made a slight adjustment to the school calendar to accommodate the exercise. It will be the same case this year since the elections will be held in the middle of the term so there is no cause for alarm,” he said.

Indimuli noted that by the end of 2022, all the time lost during the school closure will have been recovered and in January 2023, the academic calendar will have gone back to normal.

‘‘If we go beyond the stipulated period in the election then the IEBC will have to designate other polling stations,’’ he added.