Kenya: Learners to Be Back in Class On October 19

20 September 2020

Schools will open on October 19 while Standard Eight and Form Four learners will sit their national exams in April 2021 if the government adopts proposals by a committee appointed by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha.

As a result of the disruption on term dates, the committee also recommends that the school calendar be revised to allow the year to begin in June instead of the usual January-to-November cycle. The Sunday Nation understands that learners will not repeat classes as it had been announced earlier, but the mechanics of how that vision will be accomplished remain scanty.

The team of senior education stakeholders proposes to reorganise the academic calendar such that the second term starts in October and ends in November, and the third term starts in January and ends in March.

Thus the first term in the 2021 calendar will start in May or early June, meaning hundreds of thousands of children scheduled to join Early Child Development Education classes will be delayed for half a year.

The Dr Sarah Ruto-chaired committee has come up with two main proposals on how to manage the crisis caused by Covid-19 in Kenya's education sector. Its report will be presented to Prof Magoha tomorrow and a major announcement on the way forward is expected in the coming days.

In the first proposal, the stakeholders suggest to have a phased reopening of schools that will see Standard Seven, Standard Eight, Form Three and Form Four students back in class on Monday, October 19. Grade Four pupils, who are the first cohort of the Competency Based Curriculum, are also to report back to school in the first phase. For primary schools, learners in Pre-Primary One and Two and Grades One to Three, and those in Standard Five and Six will be expected to start reporting to schools on November 2. Secondary school students in Form One and Two will also be expected to report back to school on the same date.

Monitor progress

This phased-out approach is designed to afford teachers and non-academic staff enough time to familiarise themselves with health protocols before the other pupils and students report back to school.

The second proposal by the committee advises the government to swing open the gates for all learners on October 19 and monitor progress and health concerns thereafter.

Prof Magoha has invited stakeholders to another crucial meeting at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development tomorrow to decide on which of the two proposals should be presented to the national consultative conference that is expected to chart Kenya's post-Covid-19 future.

The conference is scheduled for Friday, September 25, and will be co-chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and his Health counterpart Mutahi Kagwe.

Prof Magoha is expected to present the proposed dates and guidelines for schools reopening and also outline the procedures for technical and vocational institutions, as well as universities.

On Friday, Prof Magoha gave the clearest indication yet that the re-opening of schools was imminent when he asked teachers to start preparing to report back to their centres.

"From what I have observed, the (Covid-19 infection) curve is flattening. Teachers should start to prepare to report back to their schools to make them habitable before students report," said Prof Magoha, indicating also at the time his preference for a phased reopening.

Face-to-face learning

And, in a meeting with the stakeholders on Monday, the CS asked university senates to determine their opening dates. Universities have already reopened virtually for the September-to-December semester.

Should the government settle on the October date for primary and secondary schools, universities will also be expected to recall their students for face-to-face learning. Prof Magoha has been assessing the preparedness of these institutions in several forays across the country in recent days, while the Teachers Service Commission has been training heads of schools and tertiary institutions on health protocols for safe reopening.

Those protocols include safe-distancing in class and, while touring a furniture workshop in Umoja, Nairobi this week, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the Government will deliver desks worth Sh1.9 billion to schools before they reopen. The desks will be supplied under the Economic Stimulus Programme that will benefit 5,254 secondary and 5,136 primary schools.

"Primary schools will receive 360,000 desks at a cost of Sh900 million while secondary schools will receive 263,157 lockers and chairs at a total cost of Sh1 billion," said the President.

"Each identified primary school will receive 70 desks while each secondary school will receive 50 lockers and chairs." Prof Magoha directed regional and county directors of education to ensure the desks and lockers get to schools by October 19.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said schools are ready for reopening and asked other stakeholders to come on board and help in the preparations.

"We are currently engaging various stakeholders who have agreed to supply free thermo guns to secondary schools, and we request others to also come on board and help supply water tanks, soaps and masks to students," said Mr Indimuli.

Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association chairman Nicholas Gathemia told the Sunday Nation that "little has been done to prepare schools, but we are confident that the government will give us the necessary support in the few weeks before reopening".

Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers chairman Akelo Misori said schools should prepare to observe health guidelines when they reopen, and that "social distancing remains the greatest challenge" yet.

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