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Mental health, cybercrime new threats to learners' safety, ministry says

Education
 When a teacher at Kisii School was admitted at Ram Hospital after he was stabbed by a Form Three student. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The Ministry of Education is raising alarm over new threats that not only risk harming school children but also disrupt their education and force some to drop out. 

A document by the ministry identifies climate change, mental health concerns, and cybercrime as emerging issues that requires urgent attention.

The document, titled National Education Sector Strategic Plan 2023-2027, will be the blueprint guiding the education sector for the next five years.

It was launched by the Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu last week.

It further identifies age-old challenges of alcohol, drug and substance abuse, HIV, insecurity, extremism and radicalisation, drought and even floods as other threats in the education sector.

Floods adversely affected learning between March and April. Heavy rains that pounded the country led to an extended closure of schools for two weeks. 

The ministry now plans to address these challenges by mainstreaming several initiatives into the school coursework. 

It seeks to equip learners with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to build a sustainable future and help curb the menace of climate change.

According to the document, the plan is to include climate-friendly solutions in schools by incorporating climate change education in the curriculum.

‘‘The climate change crisis will be addressed within the broader education for sustainable development framework and will entail interventions such as greening, sustainable waste management, recycling and carbon reductions,’’ the document reads.

This comes at a time the government plans to launch climate-friendly cooking technology for the school feeding programme.

The technology will involve the use of steam cookers rather than firewood that has traditionally been used.

Another area of concern is the management of alcohol, drug, and substance use. Authorities have warned that schools and homes are now the leading contributing areas that learners are likely to have an encounter with drugs and alcohol.

The ministry's interventions will target the factors that make students susceptible to substance abuse.

The plan also tackles the rising cases of non-communicable diseases, mental health issues, and HIV infections among students, teachers, and adolescents. 

It emphasises preventive measures and early detection for these conditions, recognising their negative impact on learning outcomes.

"Focus will be on prevention and management for inspections of non-communicable diseases, including mental health and psycho-social issues that affect learning outcomes,’’ the document reads.

The ministry also seeks to address gender-related barriers in education, such as child marriage, teen pregnancy, and sexual and gender-based violence.

Peace education and global citizenship also emerge as another focus area. This initiative aims to promote social cohesion, peace and a sense of global citizenship. 

It empowers learners, teachers, parents, and other people to prevent radicalisation and extremism due to the fact that educational institutions have become vulnerable to these threats. 

"Empowering students will enhance prevention, detection, and effective responses to such dangers. This initiative will be implemented through child safety and protection programmes," the document reads.

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