Kenya: Magoha Says Schools Reopening Largely Successful After Huge Turnout

(file photo).
4 January 2021

Nairobi — Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha Monday said he was impressed with the turnout of learners as schools reopened after a 10-month break occasioned by COVID-19.

Magoha said he was also impressed with the level of compliance to COVID-19 protocols across the country, as learners turned up with masks as required.

"As you have seen, apart from crowding, all students are wearing their masks and teachers are ready to teach so let us support them," Magoha said when he toured Olympic Primary School in Nairobi's Kibera.

Olympic is the largest school in the country with a population of 4,700 learners.

Magoha said an evaluation was underway at the school and others that are congested to ensure they are transfered to other schools.

"This is the largest school in the country with 4,700 students. Our wish is to have all students report back to school and get admitted but only where there is space as we are also struggling with the issue of social distancing," Magoha said.

Schools in Kenya were closed in March 2020 when the first case of COVID-19 was detected in the country but they were reopened partially in October 2020 for Form 4, Class 8 candidates and Grade 4.

An academic calendar issued by the Ministry of Education shows that Pre-Primary 1 and 2; Grade 1, 2 and 3; Class 5, 6 and 7; and Form 1, 2 and 3 learners will start their Term 2 on 4th January, 2021 and end on 19th March 2021 together with the Grade 4 and candidate classes (Class 8 and Form 4) who opened last year in October.

Magoha has urged all parents to take their children back to school saying their safety is guaranteed.

"There is no reason why parents should fail to send children to school," he said, "we have put in place adequate safety measures but they need to ensure they give them masks."

A spot check by Capital FM News shows that both public and private schools had resumed even though there were various challenges encountered, including transport crisis as learners traveled back to school to and from upcountry.

"We have been waiting for a vehicle to Nairobi since morning and we can't get any," said Vitallis Oduor, a parent who was with his two children at the Eldoret main bus stage, "we are appealing to the government to allow public service vehicles to carry their normal capacity because this is the main case of this challenge."

"We are happy to be back in school, that was a long break," a pupil at Kasarani Primary School in Nairobi said.

In some schools, teachers were turning back learners who had no facemasks.

Headteachers in most schools said they were facing challenges in maintaining social distancing in class due to inadequate desks.

"It is difficult because we don't have sufficient desks to ensure we keep children one meter away from each other but we are trying our best," said Mumbia, a headteacher at Voi Primary School.

The school had set up several handwashing stations as part of hygiene measures as directed by the Health Ministry.

"Every learner or parent and anyone else getting into school is required to wash their hands and we are maintaining a register and contacts of each one of them for ease of contact tracing in case of anything," he said.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has emphasised the need for learners, teachers and other support staff to have masks on and maintain high hygiene standards to curb the spread of the virus.

"We are happy with the progress because schools have reopened, we want to emphasise to teachers to ensure that the COVID-19 protocols are followed," he said during a tour Olympic Primary School in Kibera, "we are also urging parents to assist us by ensuring that they are compliant with the regulations."

On Sunday, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed County Health Departments to carry out routine surveillance for COVID-19 and other public health challenges in all schools including a random sampling of pupils, teachers, and support staff.

All teachers and learners were aslo required to wear "appropriate facemasks when on the school premises or within the school transport, in addition to applying hand-hygiene and physical spacing."

Some schools like Tala Boys Primary School in Machakos County had learners taking classes outside while learners in more than ten schools in Nyando were relocated to nearby schools due to floods.

Some of the parents who spoke to Capital FM News lauded the goverment for reopening schools, as others stressed the need to stricly follow COVID-19 protocols.

Lillian Ogutu, a parent at Olympics Primary School in Nairobi said they were worried of the continued closure of schools because of the danger it posed to learners, as some resorted to crime and other illegal activities.

Daniel Oduor, another parent at the school said urged the government to be strict with schools to ensure adherence to COVID-1 regulations so as to guarantee the safety of learners.ADVERTISEMENT. SCROLL TO CONTINUE READING.

Kisii County Director of Education Pius Ngoma said the region had recorded 0 per cent turnout. "We had adequately prepared for reopening so we have no much challenges. Learners and teachers are wearing masks."

An academic calendar issued by the Ministry of Education shows that Pre-Primary 1 and 2; Grade 1, 2 and 3; Class 5, 6 and 7; and Form 1, 2 and 3 learners will start their Term 2 on 4th January, 2021 and end on 19th March 2021 together with the Grade 4 and candidate classes (Class 8 and Form 4) who opened last year in October.

All other learners except Class 8 and Form 4 candidates due for Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) assessments will proceed for a 7-week holiday to allow for KCPE and KCSE examinations administration and marking.

The government announced Sunday it had set up a command centre to oversee the re-opening of schools, in an elaborate plan involving all stakeholders.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiangi said all loopholes had been sealed to ensure the re-opening is smooth while guaranteeing the safety of learners.

"The government has been spending time on planning for our children and the education sector," Matiangi said after a meeting with stakeholders.

He also announced that President Uhuru Kenyatta had issued an Executive order extending the dusk to dawn curfew and other containment measures until March 12.

"The President has issued an Executive Order extending some of the containment measures to ensure that the eco-system within which our children are going to school remains manageable," he said, "so the President has extended the curfew days and several containment measures."

The measures extended Sunday include the closure of bars by 9 pm as directed by the President on November 4 when he revised the night curfew to start at 10 pm to 4 am.

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