Story by Ann Wambui
Students in Kenya have been home for two months since coronavirus became a threat to human existence and as a precaution, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced closure of all schools as a way to control the spread of the virus and to keep children safe. This happened in the first term of the school calendar and the break from school has automatically disrupted the syllabus and routine of learners, but at least they are home right?
The first case of covid-19 in Kenya was reported in March 2020 and we have all experienced a whole change from what knew and have had to adjust to a new normal which is social distancing, regular hands hygiene and being home probably more than ever. Children have been home longer than the usual holiday break. Some countries have slightly eased the measures and have opened learning institutions while observing strict prevention measures. In Germany, studies have resumed but only one physical day at school with the rest of the days online.
Back here, the Ministry of Education together with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development rolled out the TV and Radio learning program via Edu Channel although this blocks out those from remote areas without access to internet, android phones, radio or TV set. During a press briefing, Cabinet Secretary Professor George Magoha announced that schools will resume first week of June and that national examinations will still go on as scheduled and that parents and students should not expect it otherwise.
However, there has been a difference in opinions from different parties involved as to whether schools should reopen at that time or not and their reservations about Kenya Certificate of Primary and Secondary Education examinations. CS Magoha established an Education Response Committee to advise on the schools to ensure smooth learning and keep students, teachers and other staff safe.
The ministry remains adamant that the exams will still take place but as Kuppet has established in a study, 80 per cent of the learners were not given enough assignments and study materials to take home after the schools were closed thus their strong recommendation to have the exams postponed.
While it is clear that the recommendation to reopen schools is drawn from international experience, as a country we should closely look at our capacities in schools and even the space to accommodate learners maintaining a 1.5 meters distance. It is not possible in most schools who do not have enough land that let us say they could have lessons done outside in the open air. Parents have expressed their concern about the move to open schools while the cases of the virus rise day by day and say they will delay to release their children until sometime in September.
“We shall not allow anyone to experiment with children. Let them start by opening adult social joints such as churches, bars and fields to assess the virus prevalence before getting children out to school”, said Nicholas Maiyo the national chairman of Parents Association. Backing this was Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General Wilson Sossion saying “our team of medical experts are telling us that if schools open soon there will be a resurgence of infections of the virus”.
There are so many things at stake for the children of this nation just as those from any other country. While children are at home, there is a risk of having drop outs should this pandemic go on for long, increased exposure to violence and exploitation, stress and confusion for both students and teachers since the whole year school calendar will be distorted.
But what about the opinions of learns themselves? What do they think? Have you asked them what they think is the best move? Their opinion in this motion matters right? In a discussion held May 20 by Mtoto News with children from Nyeri, Busia, Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kitui and Mandera. The conversation revolved around the challenges they are facing at home, their take on whether schools should resume or not, what the government can do to ensure children and teachers are safe should they move forward to carry on with schools and general recommendations. Among the points raised included;
- Online learning is not fair for all students countrywide.
- Students should stay at home until the crisis is well managed and the infection levels have dropped.
- Distancing students in schools will be impossible because of space and also teachers are not enough to be spread out.
- It’s impractical for studies to resume since the cases are still increasing.
- Nurses and matrons in schools need to be well equipped with information needed for Covid-19.
- Government needs to make decisions based on Kenya’s capabilities.
At the end of the day, government systems are not the same and we cannot compare our situation with other countries especially the West. They have better programmes in place, the resources and manpower to handle less learners in class and better implement online learning.
Link to the discussion https://www.facebook.com/MTotonews/videos/792038557994521/