Kenya: Learners to Test Enforcement of Covid-19 Health Protocols

25 September 2020

The huge number of learners in primary and secondary schools will test the enforcement of Covid-19 health protocols when the academic year resumes next month.

Chavakali Boys High School in Vihiga, for instance, has more than 2,000 students and just 30 classrooms. Headteacher John Kuria says if the government insists on 20 children per classroom, more than 1,000 will be locked out.

Schools now plan to put up tents. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, dormitories, libraries, classrooms, dining halls and even labs in high schools struggled to cope with congestion.

Principals who converted dispensaries, labs, stores, libraries and disused buildings into classrooms and dormitories to cope with huge number of students do not know where to get more extra space.

Headteachers have protested the delay by the government to wire funds to school accounts. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha yesterday said principals who increase fees would be disciplined.

"If anything extra is required, ensure parents are informed," Prof Magoha said.

Dilemma facing schools

Education Chief Administrative Secretary Zack Kinuthia acknowledged the dilemma facing schools.

"The 100 per cent transition from primary to secondary school policy led to congestion. The government will help expand infrastructure in such schools," Mr Kinuthia said.

Social distancing

He said social distancing will be a problem, adding that some lessons would be offered in open fields.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) chairman Omboko Milemba asked the government to increase funding for infrastructural development.

High school principals in Meru interviewed by the Nation said adhering to the health protocols would make it impossible to accommodate all students.

Kaaga Girls principal Eunice Maeke said the school can only accommodate Form Fours if social distancing is to be enforced while her Meru School counterpart Kiwara Kariuki said the institution can only have half its number of students.

Moi Girls AIC in Samburu will place students in study groups. School head Alice Guturo said lessons would be conducted outside classrooms.

"Building new structures will take time," Ms Guturo said, adding that the school has a large compound.

Heads in Nyandarua will require to double facilities if lessons are to go on smoothly. Tumaini Primary headteacher Lucy Karau said the school has 20 classrooms for 800 pupils.

School facilities

"We will meet on Monday to brainstorm on protecting the school community, though the challenge will be enforcing social distancing," Ms Karau said.

Gathuini Primary School in Mathira has no water. Headteacher Mr Ngatia Gathieri summoned parents yesterday to inform them about the challenges the institution faces.

The situation is different in Baringo as school facilities have been damaged by flooding. Dormitories, offices and other buildings at Ng'ambo Girls Secondary School are submerged.

Many schools in Bungoma are not prepared for reopening. Bungoma D.E.B Primary school has a 3,334 pupils and 48 classrooms. Mr Tobias Khisa, the headteacher, said the school needs at least 20 more classrooms. The Sh2 million given to the school is only enough for two new classrooms.

The story is the same for Rurigi Mixed Boarding School in Ainabkoi.

"We need three more classrooms. The government should consider giving schools tents," school Principal Edward Wanjala said, adding that accommodation will be his greatest challenge.

St Mary's Mabera Girls Secondary in Nyanza among schools that were used as Covid-19 isolation centres.

"After issuing a vacation notice to the county government, we came up with possible accommodation measures but the space is insufficient," school head Jane Ochieng said.

Reported by Mwangi Muiruri, Regina Kinogu, David Muchui, Wakwa Maina, Geoffrey Ondieki, Vitalis Kimutai, Brian Ojamaa, Stanley Kimuge, Florah Koech Wycliffe Kipsang, Oscar Kakai, Ian Byron, George Odiwuor, Elizabeth Ojina, Benson Amadala, Ruth Mbula and Deric Luvega

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