Kenya: No Date Set for School Reopening

Moi Nyeri Complex primary school (file photo).
29 September 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday dashed hopes of many Kenyans who thought he would reopen schools. The government instead chose to delay further resumption of physical classes.

The President said schools and other institutions of learning would remain shut until adequate safety measures are put in place.

The move means teachers who reported to school yesterday, have to wait longer for learners, as parents grapple with home schooling.

There were high expectations the Head of State would announce a new education calendar after weeks of deliberations with various stakeholders.

The President instead said he would not gamble with the children's health and safety by reopening the institutions even as he de-escalated Covid-19 measures on other sectors.

"Our paramount consideration as a government and as parents is the safety and well-being of our children. The lives of our children and their health is not a matter for debate," he said.

Guarantee safety

"Learning institutions, therefore, should only be reopened when we have and can sufficiently guarantee the safety of all of our children."

Without giving any indication of a date of resumption, the President said that despite falling Covid-19 infection rates, learners should only be allowed to resume in-person learning when their health is guaranteed.

Whereas there were reports the task force appointed by Education CS George Magoha had recommended an earlier reopening date, the closure may be extended to 2021.

"I call upon the CS for Education, once we have agreed on the how, we will thereafter immediately issue a calendar for the resumption of the 2020 academic year if it is to be (this year) or if it is going to be 2021," the President said. Before he appointed the taskforce, Prof Magoha had given January 2021 as the tentative date. It is now clear resumption of classes will necessitate a reorganisation of the school calendar.

Many schools, colleges, training institutes and universities are ill-prepared to adhere to the Ministry of Health guidelines.

Many have congested classrooms and dormitories, and lack clean running water.

School heads have complained over delayed release of funds to enable them prepare the institutions to receive learners.

Online teaching

Many universities have taken to online teaching albeit with varying levels of success.

Students have complained about the high cost of digital devices and data bundles.

President Uhuru warned that he would not hesitate to escalate the containment measures if the infections shot up again.

A head teacher of a primary school in Kawangware, Nairobi told Nation that she feared many children would drop out of school due to the prolonged closure.

"School provides them with safety. Many are right now engaged in hawking, touting and some are even used by drug traffickers. There are also many cases of sexual abuse."

The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers Secretary General, Akelo Misori supported the President's move.

"As teachers, parents and workers, we support government efforts to ensure a steady but healthy return to normalcy. We look forward to a quick recovery from the measures and a revitalised Kenyan workforce after this pandemic. As we said last week, the government should not abdicate its responsibility of helping parents during the upcoming reopening of schools," he said.

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