Kenya: Put Off January 4 Schools' Opening Date, NCCK Urges

4 December 2020

The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) on Thursday started a push for the review of the January date for the reopening of schools, citing the surge in Covid-19 numbers in the country.

Grade Four, primary school finalists in Class Eight and secondary school finalists in Form Four have been in school from October, with the government announcing that all learners will resume in-school learning on January 4.

But the NCCK says the rise in Covid-19 numbers was worrying and the situation should be reviewed before all learners can be sent back to class. The infections yesterday stood at 86,383 with 1,500 deaths and 67,788 recoveries out of the 911,596 people tested so far.

"We propose that the decision that all learners will resume in-school learning on January 5, 2021 be reviewed and proper measures put in place to avoid a surge in new infections," General-Secretary Rev Canon Chris Kinyanjui said yesterday after an NCCK Executive Committee meeting in Limuru.

While the NCCK did not state when they want schools reopened or how long the postponement should be, they insisted that further discussions must be made to ensure the safety of learners.

Holidays squeezed

"We call on all stakeholders to sit down and review this situation. We must make sure that all the measures have been put in place and that we do not reopen our schools when we are not sure of the safety of our children," Rev Canon Kinyanjui told journalists. When he announced the reopening of schools for a crash programme that will see school terms and holidays squeezed, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha assured Kenyans that his ministry will take into account lessons learned after the phased reopening of schools for the three classes.

"We are drawing important lessons from the partial reopening since October and are confident that we will remain in the right trajectory in finding a winning formula that will ensure institutions are safe for learners and teachers," Prof Magoha said when he announced the January 4 reopening for all learners last month.

With the learners in the two classes in primary school and one class in secondary all alone in the schools, there is significantly more space to allow the Covid-19 regulation of physical distance between people to avoid infections, a situation that will be voided once all the learners are allowed back in schools in January.

This, even as parents are facing the burden of paying school fees for eight school terms in the next two years, with the cost of complying with the new Covid-19 health protocols also pushed to parents.

"Participants may have to come up with additional finances, staff (teaching and non-teaching staff), learning rooms, ICT infrastructure, sustainable supply of running water and sanitisers and sanitising facilities," a training module developed the Ministry of Education reads. Next year will have four terms beginning on January 4, May 10, July 26 and October 11, with only those in Grade Four covering three terms in the same year.

School calendar

The 2021 school calendar begins on July 26, with the learners expected to take a seven-week break late March to allow for the sitting and marking of the primary school and secondary school final examinations.

The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) will be administered from March 22 to 24, while Kenya Certificate of Secondary School Education (KCSE) candidates will sit theirs from March 26 to April 21.

A total of 1,938,667 candidates will sit the national exams, with 1,187,517 registered to sit KCPE exams while 751,150 are KCSE candidates.

After sitting their KCPE exams, the current candidates will be out of school for four months from March 19 to July 26 to allow those in Form One finish their last term before proceeding to Form Two.

Similarly, Grade Four learners will take a four-month break before proceeding to Grade Five, having covered one term between October and December this year when the rest of the learners, except those in Class Eight, were at home.

This year's examinations were scheduled to start on October 27 but were postponed to next year after this year's school calendar was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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