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We need a sustainable way to fund post Covid-19 education

OPINION
By Wilson Sossion | May 2nd 2021
A woman selecting books along Luthuli Avenue on May 10, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

As the government continues to roll out inoculation against Covid-19, the urgent need to vaccinate teachers and other school staff is becoming a major concern owing to the scheduled reopening of schools on May 10. Aside from immunising teachers, post Covid-19 education has its own demands and challenges, which could easily aggravate the teaching/learning environment if not properly addressed.

School closures caused by the pandemic exacerbated previous inequalities, and children who were already most at risk of being excluded from quality education were the most affected. This category of learners now requires exceptional attention to spur their education to standard levels – this requires a phenomenal amount of funds.

Thus, in the post Covid-19 era, free and subsidised education funds should be made readily available to schools to facilitate inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. Withholding the funds, as is the case presently, could worsen the dire situation and plunge schools into further crises.

For instance, the Ministry of Education in March released Sh14.6 billion to fund secondary education, and another Sh4.6 billion for primary schools – the sum represents only 25 per cent of the total amount that should have been sent to schools during the first term. This is likely to plunge schools into crises as the delay in the release of the capitation balance will frustrate the purchase of detergents, sanitisers, protective equipment, and freshwater, and finance school feeding programmes and expansion of school facilities to ensure social distancing, among other immediate concerns.

More importantly, each school needs to be linked to a health facility for quick referrals of any Covid-19-related emergencies – this also requires funds to cater for transport and other arising costs. To expedite the reopening schools, the government must secure teachers’ health, safety and wellbeing.

This is a critical precursor to the renormalisation of in-person teaching and learning, and to the much-needed return to the socialisation function of education. Hence, there is urgent need to vaccinate teachers, bearing in mind that the Covid-19 scourge could easily cripple the education system.

Reopening schools safely, and keeping them open as long as possible, is imperative. In this context, as we see positive developments regarding inoculation, we believe that teachers and support staff must be considered as a priority group. It is instructive that teachers be accorded high priority for immunisation for reasons that have more to do with protecting the community than with protecting those teachers alone. Teachers face higher risks of contracting Covid-19, hence prioritising adults in school for inoculation amounts to a public health multiplier.

-Mr Sossion is a nominated MP and secretary general of Knut

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