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Children to use schools, church compounds for lessons

By Augustine Oduor | August 23rd 2020 at 11:30:00 GMT +0300

School-going children play along Parliament Road, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina/Standard]

It is now official that public primary and secondary schools facilities and church compounds will be used for community-based learning expected to start next month.

Lessons will be conducted with about 15 learners in classes between 9am and 1pm from Monday to Friday.

The new implementation guidelines on learning venues released by the Ministry of Education through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) further say that learning activities are not meant to cover the curriculum designs or syllabuses, but to engage learners to gain good personal habits, competencies, skills and values.

The details contained in the just-released manual dubbed Establishment of Community Based Learning, now offer the much-awaited clarity on whether schools would be open for use for learning.

“All the venues should be child-friendly in terms of location and use such as schools, churches, social halls and open spaces,” read the ministry guidelines.

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The revelation now settles the venue debate as education stakeholders had raised concern over inadequate safe open spaces for children to learn within villages and estates.

It also comes at a time when a number of public institutions are in a state of disrepair after months of closure and withdrawal of services by support staff, who have not been paid their salaries for the last six months.

The detailed document also says venues to be used for learning in the estates and villages should be within comfortable walking distance for the learners.

It also says the venues should be spacious enough to allow for social distancing of 1.5 metres between learners.

It emerges even as school heads fault the ministry for locking them out of the implementation committees from the county, sub-county and zonal levels.

According to the manual, the three implementation committees will draw membership from the Ministry of Education, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), ministries of Health, Interior and the county governments.

Primary and secondary school heads yesterday said teachers are at the centre of the community-based learning and noted that successful roll-out cannot happen in absence of heads as key players.

“We must be involved at every stage of implementation,” said a joint statement by Kahi Indimuli and Nicholas Gathemia, who represent secondary and primary school heads.

Under the role of teachers, heads of institutions will be required to be in school at least once per week to supervise and monitor the programme.

Finer details, however, reveal that the zonal implementation committee will have the huge responsibility of identifying venues and sensitising the parents and community on the CBL programme.

The committee will comprise curriculum support officers, area chief, Ministry of Health officer and Nyumba Kumi initiative leaders.

These officials will also orient teachers on the programme, map learners through the Nyumba Kumi initiative and allocate teachers to the learners in their respective areas.

The zonal committee will also supervise the implementation of CBL at the zone and submit weekly reports to the sub-county office.

“The chiefs will assist in making sure that all the learners within their areas of jurisdiction participate in the programme,” reads the manual.

And where there are already existing online learning programmes, the CBL committees will be required to take note and monitor learner engagement.

In order to ensure successful engagement of learners in the CBL programme, the manual says that zonal committees make visits to the learning venues during the learning time.

They will support the teachers and demonstrate the suggested learning activities, receive feedback reports from teachers on the implementation of the CBL and also compile weekly reports.

“They will also offer continuous support on any emerging issues and continuously liaise with sub-county and county committees.”

While in the schools and other venues of learning, all primary school children will be taught life skills and values, health and fitness, as well as environment and sanitation.

Secondary schools students will be taught citizenship, environment, creative arts, languages, games and fitness, life skills, home science, mathematics and financial literacy.

“Teachers should plan around learning activities that do not involve too much of text books. They therefore need to engage in hands-on experiences requiring the learners to perform certain tasks,” reads the manual.

During the lessons, there will be no contact among teachers and learners, according to the manual.

Teachers will be required to allow for social distancing, and make learning activities interesting and engaging.

Lessons will be made short, with learners required to to do some practical work and also be allowed to be creative.

“Allow learners to express themselves freely, for example develop showcase portfolios, display of talents, dramatise, draw, song and dance,” reads the manual.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been pushing for the safe opening of schools. In a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the agencies urge governments not to be “blind-sided by efforts to contain Covid-19, as this would end up with a lost generation”.

The organisations argue that the prolonged school closure aimed at keeping children safe by staying at home was causing poor nutrition, stress, increased exposure to violence and exploitation, childhood pregnancies, and overall challenges in mental development of children due to reduced interaction.

“Just as countries are opening businesses safely, we can reopen schools,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.

Dr Moeti said a survey done in 39 countries in sub-Saharan Africa revealed that schools are fully open in only six countries. “They are closed in 14 countries and partially open (exam classes) in 19 others. A dozen countries are planning to resume classroom learning in September, which is the start of the academic year in some countries.”

The findings also mirror a World Bank study that projected that school closures in sub-Saharan Africa could also hurt economies, with projected lifetime earning losses of up to Sh45,000 per child.

In their proposals, the WHO and Unicef are advocating that countries take measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 in schools.

“The long-term impact of extending the school shutdown risks ever greater harm to children, their future and their communities. When we balance the harm being done to children locked out of schools, and if we follow the evidence, it leads children back into the classroom,” said Unicef Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mohamed Malick Fall.

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