Kenya: Queries As Teachers Return to Dirty Schools

27 September 2020

Are teachers expected to clean and sanitise schools or will they stick to their core teaching duties?

These are the questions in many tutors minds as they start reporting to work tomorrow. There is confusion on who will be responsible for cleaning schools in preparation for reopening as majority of institutions do not have non-teaching staff charged with cleaning the institutions.

They rely on students, who are on holiday and are expected to report to clean schools.

Teachers who spoke to the Sunday Nation said it is not clear how they will prepare schools for safe reopening. "Who will clean the classrooms? Who will clean desks and arrange them, dormitories, toilets and clear bushes? Is the Ministry of Education expecting teachers to do that when we report next week?" posed a teacher who cannot be named.

The teachers were directed by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) report to work by tomorrow and start taking part in making adequate arrangements for reopening.

The employer in a circular dated September 21 to all regional directors, county and sub county directors asked teachers to take part in making adequate arrangements for reopening of schools, including ensuring that classes are clean.

Thorough cleaning

"Work with relevant stakeholders to ensure thorough cleaning of classrooms, offices, dormitories, school amenities and ensure that the same are in habitable conditions for learners," says the circular.

On Saturday, the TSC director of communications Beatrice Wababu said the directives to teachers were clear and they should preparing schools for reopening.

"Teachers roles were well-described in the circular," she said and refused to wade into the issue of whether they will be involved in the clean-up.

When contacted, Ministry of Education's director-general Elyas Abdi, who has been leading assessment of schools before reopening, said he is not the competent person to comment of the issue.

"Only Prof Magoha can answer questions," he told the Sunday Nation. The CS did not respond to the questions when contacted.

Before reopening, heads are required to ensure schools are cleaned, sanitised, and desks are rearranged to meet ministry of health guidelines on Covid-19.

In most schools, it's students who clean their dormitories, classrooms, sweep the compound, clean staffroom and wash toilets. For instance, in public primary schools, most schools only have a watchman and a cook for the teachers.

Employ staff

Schools never employ staff to clear the bushes or sweep the compound as that is left t the learners as a way of grooming them to be responsible people in future.

The Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chairperson Nicholas Gathemia said teachers will not clean schools and will only engage in preparing lesson plans ahead of reopening expected anytime next week.

"The work of a teacher is to teach the learners," Mr Gathemia told the Sunday Nation, adding that head teachers are in dilemma on whether to call parents to come and help cleaning schools or to employ casual labourers.

Some school heads who spoke to the Sunday Nation said they are engaging with local chiefs to organise with the government and send teams of Kazi Mtaani youths to help with school cleaning.

But even with that, Mr Gathemia said engaging the youths may expose school property to strangers. He added the only other option is to call parents to help with the cleaning as they can be trusted.

Kenya Secondary Heads Association (Kessha) chairman Kahi Indimuli said principals will engage non-teaching staff to help with the cleaning.

However, he added that the biggest challenge for most schools will be salaries as the staff have gone without pay since March.

"Some schools sent their workers on unpaid leave, recalling them to clean the institutions without pay is a challenge," said Mr Indimuli.

Clean schools

From Monday, he said teachers will only supervise the non-teaching staff as they clean schools. Kenya Secondary Schools Non-teaching Staff Union Nairobi branch secretary Daniel Kamanja said they are demotivated for going without salaries yet they are required to work with teachers to prepare schools for reopening.

"The non-teaching staff are a forgotten lot and having being working without a pay since April, why is the ministry not releasing funds to schools," said Mr Kamanja.

A spot check by the Sunday Nation at Moi Avenue Primary and Ruaraka Secondary Schools established that not much has been done to prepare the schools.

Schools used as quarantine centres have also not been fumigated. In July, Prof Magoha directed the non-teaching staff to ensure proper maintenance and safety in schools promising that funds will be released to pay their salaries.

However, the government only released funds for the Board of Management teachers.

"The government should have considered non-teaching staff first because they are employed directly under the Ministry of Education," said Mr Indimuli.

School heads had asked the ministry to release Sh13.3 billion to enable schools to prepare for reopening.

The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general Akelo Misori said the government must pull up its socks in dealing with the situation in schools. "The Treasury must expeditiously release capitation funds for the development of infrastructure required to control the spread of corona virus," said Mr Misori.

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