Kenya: Why School Will Never Be the Same Again for Pupils, Tutors

17 September 2020

Tough times await teachers and their learners when schools reopen anytime from next month, guidelines issued by the Education ministry reveal.

The new health protocols will turn school life on its head, with pain being felt right from the gate, to classrooms, dining halls, toilets, dorms and everywhere else in the compound.

Children anticipating to meet their friends after a six-month break, for instance, will not be allowed to play or interact freely like before.

"Swimming should be halted in all educational institutions until the Covid-19 risk is at the lowest level as shall be guided by the Ministry of Health," the guidelines read in part.

Pre-primary learners will be split into smaller groups of not more than four during breaks, and teachers will be required monitor their movements all the time -- including accompanying them to toilets.

No sleeping

"Children shall be released to go home immediately after completing the day's lessons. There shall be no sleeping and provision of mattresses at school," the guide reads.

In kitchens and dining halls, learners will be required to eat in shifts and will not be allowed to share utensils.

"Staggered eating shifts by classes will be considered where population is high to avoid crowding in the dining hall. Where possible, lunches and afternoon snacks will take place within each class," the new rules released by Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang say.

The guidelines are to help schools manage the threat of Covid-19, provide guidance for the response mechanisms of a suspected case and enhance compliance with health protocols to stop the spread of the disease.

The ministry published the guidelines amid pressure from stakeholders to reopen schools in October.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Monday directed the Education task force on Covid-19 response to draw up new proposals reviewing the January opening date.

The team's proposals will be presented next week during a national stakeholders' conference, scheduled for September 25.

Clean running water

On the opening day, all schools will be required to provide clean running water at the entrance and common places.

"An institution will not be allowed to be in session in the absence of clean running water," say the protocols.

Learners will be required to wash their hands before entering the school gate, wear face masks and undergo daily temperature screening.

Class teachers will be required to meet learners below nine years at the institution gate at the start of the day and escort them to the exit at pick-up times to limit flocking of parents and guardians.

The children will not be allowed to congregate in school assemblies while inter-institution competitions -- including games, drama, music, sports and other events that create crowded conditions -- will remain suspended.

In the new guidelines, schools will only be allowed to hold class mini-assemblies to pray, pass health messages and make announcements. Also suspended are visiting, career and motivation days.

Buy disinfectants

The protocols require schools to buy disinfectants, liquid soaps, non-touch thermometers, face masks and first aid kits.

Temperature monitoring should be done to all learners, teachers and support staff every morning, with every school required to have a designated room for use as a sick bay in case of presumed Covid-19 cases.

Institutions will be required to create physical distance between learners of at least one metre apart.

Desks, working tables and lockers are to be cleaned and disinfected daily while teachers are required to ensure proper ventilation in classrooms for free circulation of fresh air.

In the dormitories, schools will be required to ensure social distancing, reduce congestion and ensure that surfaces and equipment are cleaned and disinfected daily.

Safety waste bins

Heads of schools will further be required to ensure safety waste bins with a pedal and liner are provided in classrooms, dormitories, and staff rooms and around the compound.

The ministry requires learning centres to ensure that there are adequate toilets, washrooms and latrines, at a ratio of one door to 25 girls and one door to 30 boys, with a urinal.

Staff cleaning the school toilets will be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment such as boots, lab coats, gloves, safety goggles, glasses, face shields and masks.

They are expected to disinfect the facilities three times a day.

School heads have been asked to set up Covid-19 response committees of not more than five members -- including one learner and trainee, and a member of non-teaching staff.

All stations will be required to ensure there is a qualified nurse in charge or have arrangements with local health centres to manage learners' health issues.

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