In an empty room at Tassia Primary School in Nairobi’s Embakasi area, a teacher and pupil sit face-to-face, separated by a desk.
The teacher’s face is covered in a transparent mask. The pupil’s eyes hover around the heap of papers on the desk, as the teacher prepares him for an oral examination.
It is a reading comprehension test for Grade Four pupils by the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC).
The tests began yesterday, a week after Grade Four and Standard Eight pupils resumed classes more than six months after institutions were shut when the country recorded its first case of Covid-19. Also reporting last week are Form Four students.
When the teacher asks a question, she leans slightly forward to hear the pupil’s muffled response behind the mask.
“It is extremely difficult to deliver a CBC examination while trying to adhere to coronavirus containment measures,” says Norman Nguku, CBC coordinator at the school.
As Grade Four and Standard Eight learners sat their first test yesterday, teachers in different institutions said they faced challenges in conducting lessons and executing the curriculum.
Tassia Primary School has 90 pupils in Grade Four, and the teachers say administering the examination took the whole day.
“CBC is supposed to be hands-on. There are assessments that have to be done in groups to test the competency and interaction of children. With Covid-19, we cannot do that. We may have to go back to the 8-4-4 method,” says Ms Nguku.
Schools yesterday reported that even though learners started the examinations, the website where they were supposed to download materials for testing was clogged and therefore slow.
At Uhuru Gardens Primary School in Lang’ata, we find Dorinah Ogeng’o, the deputy head teacher, supervising the examination. The school does not have adequate teachers to allow for testing of the pupils in secluded rooms.
“I have to keep my voice low so that other pupils do not hear the questions and answers. We cannot send them out because we have to monitor them and ensure they are wearing masks and observing social distance,” she says.
The teachers here say they have had a relatively easy time with the Class Eight candidates, whose examination did not need a lot of face-to-face interaction.
The tests are meant to gauge the learners’ level of preparedness after staying home for more than six months.
“We are realising that some of the pupils have forgotten how to read. We have to start from scratch for some of them,” says Ruth Matundura, a teacher at Uhuru Gardens Primary.
Elsewhere in Ilchamus Ward, Baringo South, a number of learners did not show up for the KNEC assessment yesterday.
At Kokwa Island Primary School, only 18 of the 46 Standard Eight pupils sat the assessment. All 20 Grade Four pupils turned up for the examination.
A teacher at the school says only four Standard Eight boys did the assessment.
The low number of boys in this region is attributed to circumcision. The Ilchamus community marked the start of initiation of at least 10,000 boys last month.
All 34 Standard Eight pupils at Kapindasum Primary in Mukutani Baringo South sat the assessment. However, only four of the seven Grade 4 learners turned up.
School head teacher Maria Mursoi says the challenge was only in printing assessment papers.
Assessment of Grade Four and Standard Eight pupils in Nakuru kicked off well, with no hitches reported.
At Moi Primary School, more than 500 learners sat the assessment, with the Ministry of Health guidelines on Covid-19 observed. Social distancing and wearing of face masks in class was mandatory. We observe handwashing points in several parts of the school.
At least 299 Standard Eight Pupils occupied 10 classes to ensure social distancing, while the 250 Grade Four pupils occupied another eight classes.
Peter Mwangi, the teacher in charge of examinations, says they started the assessment at around 8:45am.
Mwangi says only one pupil failed to report. They had engaged the learners in e-learning when schools were closed.
“They are not quite well prepared, but we are good to go,” he says.
At St Mary’s Primary, masked teachers engage Grade Four pupils in reading and listening assessment outside the classroom.
The Grade Four and Standard Eight have been using 13 classrooms.
Elsewhere in Kakamega County, Knec assessment tests for Class Eight and Grade Four kicked off smoothly, though some pupils failed to turn up.
At Kakamega Primary School, The Standard team finds 378 pupils spread in 16 classes instead of the usual eight streams in a bid to observe social distancing. At least 11 pupils are missing.
At Fesbeth Academy, there are 107 pupils in Class Eight spread across five streams and an extra three, who are hosted here because their previous school closed down due to effects of Covid-19.
According to Vincent Anyanga, the head teacher, all 200 Grade Four pupils reported.
At Kakamega Hill School, Josephat Mangala, the head teacher, says there are 194 Standard Eight candidates and 158 Grade Four pupils, all who reported to school.
In Kisumu’s Manyata Primary School, only two of the 347 Class Eight learners have not been seen in school. All 412 learners in Grade Four turn up. The learners sitting the exams used 40 of the school’s 45 classrooms.
At Kosawo Primary School, 401 learners in Grade Four and 330 others in Standard Eight report for the examinations. There are however five missing in Standard Eight and another 30 in Grade Four.
Kosawo Primary’s day one Mathematics and English tests started an hour late, with the school’s head teacher George Ochieng’ citing logistical challenges.
To ensure social distancing is maintained, each learner sat alone on a desk usually shared by three, taking up 28 of the school’s 40 classrooms. All had their masks on.
Kisumu County Education Director Isaac Atebe says they noticed absenteeism in a number of schools.
At Ngangarithi Primary School in Nyeri, head teacher Gerald Mwangi says the examination started smoothly, with more than 80 pupils writing the test.
Mwangi says although the available desks were inadequate for learners in Grade Four and Class Eight, return of other pupils is likely to complicate adherence to social distancing guidelines in classes.
The assessments were uninterrupted in other parts of the county.