Kenya: New Learning Model Off to Rocky Start Amid Doubts on Usefulness

13 August 2020

Even as teachers register for community-based learning, lack of clarity on how the programme will be run is causing confusion and anxiety among the tutors and parents.

The Education ministry and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) are yet to clarify how tutors and learners will be protected from contracting Covid-19, the mapping of the learning infrastructure, the number of students and teachers per session, and the availability of open spaces.

At the Coast, more than 50,000 teachers want the Ministry of Education to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPEs). Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) national executive council member Dan Aloo demanded PPE's and other gear.

"It is a noble idea but let teachers be protected first. The government should also map out Covid-19 hotspots. A little allowance will also help," Mr Aloo said.

Registering teachers

In the North Rift, most teachers were still awaiting guidance on how to implement it, even though their union gave the programme conditional acceptance, demanding that the ministry should provide PPEs, thermal guns and sanitisers.

Most county officials and curriculum officers were on Thursday registering teachers and establishing the exact number of learners in primary and secondary schools in each area to kick-start the programme.

Nandi East Knut Secretary Wilson Kemboi and his Nandi North counterpart Josephath Serem said teachers in the county are willing to engage in community learning.

They urged the ministries of Health, Education and Interior to ensure children are protected from the virus. They said the teachers will also use churches and spaces under trees as classrooms.

In Central, the registration of teachers is ongoing. TSC Regional Director Juliet Kariuki said the exercise had begun in Nyeri, Murang'a and Kiambu counties.

She, however, could not reveal the number of those registered so far.

In Nyanza, Western and South Rift region, confusion reigned as those involved said they had not received any direction from the Ministry of Education.

Chiefs identifying venues

In Kakamega, Siaya, Kisii and Nyamira counties, most teachers, education officers and stakeholders said they were not aware and had not been guided on the registration.

Even the Zonal Curriculum Support Officers in Siaya County have not been sensitised on the programme, they said.

Siaya County Commissioner Michael Ole Tialal said he was yet to get official communication to work with chiefs and their assistants in identifying the venues.

The guidelines proposed by the ministry require classes to be in open places and halls under strict adherence of Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols.

The guidelines further require teachers living away from their schools not to travel to their work stations but to teach in their neighbourhoods.

Some teachers are, however, doubtful of the new arrangement. "The first challenge is familiarisation between teachers and the learners because the children will be meeting new faces. This will affect the level of discipline in the learning centres," said Francis Obwamu, the head teacher of Central Primary School in Mumias, while appealing to the government to reopen schools in phases instead.

"Let us have Class Eight and Form Fours come back to school. After they exit, other classes can resume gradually," he said.

In Kisii and Nyamira counties, administrators and teachers were waiting for communication from the ministries of Education and Interior on how the programme is to be implemented. In Kisii, a few teachers started registering on Thursday but learning centres were yet to be identified.

"For now, we are concentrating on the registration of teachers. Other logistics like learning centres will come later," said county director of education Pius Ngoma.

Registration was yet to start in Kericho and Bomet counties as of yesterday, with some parents sceptical about releasing their children to the yet-to-be-opened learning centres.

"With the government having closed schools and directed that children are not allowed to attend church services, how does the Ministry of Education expect us to release our children to learn under trees where they will mingle freely with others?" Mr Theophilus Rop, a businessman in Bomet town, posed.

In Vihiga, County Director of Education Hellen Nyang'au said tutor registration was underway.

She said they received the guidelines on Wednesday and national government administrators and Nyumba Kumi officials are identifying centres.

"Officers from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Health are also involved as we will be required to have only 15 learners per session," she said.

Reporting by Irene Mugo, Winnie Atieno, Reginah Kinogu, Brian Ojamaa, Oscar Kaikai, Tom Matoke, Onyango K'onyango, Shaban Makokha, Dickens Wasonga, Benson Ayienda, Vitalis Kimutai, Elizabeth Ojina, Derick Luvega and Ian Byron. [email protected]

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