The New Year’s first school term begins on Monday. And just like in the past, some parents, school administrators and the government will be caught flatfooted. This, despite the long December school holiday that provided ample time to prepare.
Ideally, the government ought to have dispatched Free Primary Education (FPE) and Free Secondary Education (FPE) capitation funds to all schools by close of business today. In the past, schools started new terms without the cash, creating friction between headteachers and suppliers. The Treasury is currently piling on the pressure on counties and State agencies to pay suppliers on time. In the same spirit, it must lead by example by disbursing FPE and FSE cash by the first school bell ring on Monday morning.
There have been reports of some school facilities being destroyed by floods throughout the country. Indeed, we have areas where flood victims are still camping in schools today. The Ministry of Education and relevant government agencies should have by now conducted an audit on the magnitude of destruction and acted to ensure what was destroyed is fixed.
Alternative accommodation should have been provided for people currently camping in schools. In areas where school infrastructure was completely destroyed by heavy flooding and landslides, the expectation is that by Monday when schools open their doors to learners, arrangements will have been made by relevant county authorities in collaboration with the Ministry of Education for alternative avenues of learning.
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This will ensure that learners do miss out on critical lessons. To wait until Monday to start fixing such pertinent and pressing issues will be taking procrastination too far.
Some of the youngest learners will also be packing their bags for their first day in school. Unfortunately, this excitement was, in the past, clouded by reports of illegal charges imposed on parents under the guise of 'admission fees', 'buying admission letters' and other questionable headers. In this regard, the Education ministry must make it clear well in advance that free primary education means exactly that: free.
Having stayed with them at home for two months, many parents will be forgiven for being eager to send their children to school. However, the tendency to send underage children to school should be discouraged.
With just two days to opening day, we wish to remind parents that schools should not be seen as institutions where children are sent to keep them away from trouble. They are places of knowledge where support and follow-up action from their parents play a key role in ensuring they benefit.