The government's plan to fully reopen schools hangs in the balance due to the sharp surge in Covid-19 infections. Moreover, there are concerns over lack of funding for schools, hampering effective resumption of learning.
For starters, the schools reopened two weeks ago, starting with Form Four and Standard Eight candidates and Grade Four pupils. They were to be followed by other senior classes after two weeks, moving progressively to lower classes.
When schools reopened for the examination classes, the government disbursed some cash to the institutions to support teaching and learning programmes and to enable them to acquire and install Covid-19 protective facilities.
However, coronavirus infections have increased drastically in the past few weeks due to the lifting of the containment measures, thereby complicating the full reopening. Infections have been reported in a few schools, which have since been closed.
Even so, infections in schools are minimal, which is why Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has ruled out closure of the institutions in the interim. However, the prevailing conditions have created difficulty in fully reopening the schools. The government has to monitor the trends before making a determination to recall all learners.
A matter of concern, though, is funding. Most schools are cash-strapped and are unable to meet their obligations. The money the government sent to them as they reopened has largely been spent on clearing debts that had piled up since March, when they closed.
The worst hit are boarding secondary schools, which have heavy recurrent expenses. Given the ravages of the pandemic, which pushed people out of jobs and businesses, many parents have not paid fees, which, although understandable, causes unbearable strain on the schools.
The government should give additional cash to schools to keep them running. Importantly, parents have to take up their responsibility and pay fees. Schools cannot continue operating without proper funding and also enforce the Covid-19 health and safety protocols.