10,000 learners move from private to public schools
Irene Githinji and David Musundi
At least 10,000 learners have transferred from private primary schools to public institutions since reopening on Monday, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha has announced.
At the same time, Prof Magoha has defended the government directive barring journalists from visiting schools, saying the move was meant to protect learners.
Magoha said this is a national examination term, hence visitors were barred from learning institutions to ensure non-interference in the critical national tests exercise.
“Please, stop confusing the population. There is nothing we are hiding; we are a democratic country.
But keep away from schools,” said the CS when he addressed a media breakfast meeting on resumption of learning in Nairobi yesterday.
Other than the media, Magoha said parents and preachers were also not allowed to visit schools, adding that the decision had been taken in good faith.
The minister said reopening of secondary schools had been staggered to avoid crowding but primary institutions had recorded a good turnout, even as thousands of learners moved schools.
“Some 10,000 learners have been absorbed from private to public schools. For instance, in Nyeri, we had over 1,000 while in Thika’s Kianjau Primary School, 73 were enrolled,” said the CS.
He said the government had been “generous” as far as the infrastructure fund is concerned, saying secondary school funds for the past year stood at Sh2.4 billion.
Primary schools received Sh200 million, primary low-cost boarding received Sh300 million while maintenance improvement funds amounted to Sh15 billion.
He said the government, together with collaborators spent Sh8.2 billion, which is being applied selectively in 30 counties while parents will contribute Sh2 billion for boarding.
Another Sh4 billion will go to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) to cover public secondary school students.
“Government resources and budgets have seen education sector get the lion’s share of about 27 per cent, which has been shared out to various projects,” he noted.
He denied that the government was “sleeping on the job” as far as construction of classrooms is concerned, noting that, on average, 33,000 classrooms had been built through the National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) and other partners.
“As children get back to school, help us to encourage them and stop causing confusion. If we continue like this, we will not achieve what we want to,” he said.
On learning under trees, the CS explained that it was welcome since plants increase oxygen in the atmosphere and the free circulation guards against Covid-19 infection.
Balloons in lungs
“There are balloons in the lungs surrounded by blood pipes and red cells meant to carry oxygen, so when you have Covid-19 the blood cells tend to clot and there is difficulty in breathing.
So why not take advantage of this and encourage people to have their classes outside. Learning under trees is therapeutic,” the CS, a medical doctor, explained.
Teachers Service Commission Secretary Dr Nancy Macharia assured that no teacher will be penalised for working from home, even though a circular on the same had not been issued.
“Our directors have been advised appropriately. Some teachers have opted not to stay at home, they have told us that they have been at home for too long and want to be back to school and working.
We cannot prevent them as long as they take care of themselves,” she said.
“When we go on holiday, we prepare schemes of work and teaching aids and even mark, so it is a collaboration… we can assure our teachers that if they will not be in school for one reason or another, nobody will sack you.
Even before Covid-19 our teachers used to get sick and we have a way of taking care of them so nobody is interested in making matters difficult for them.”
She said TSC has been supporting teachers since October when schools reopened partially, in addition to giving them psychosocial support.
“The teachers medical provider is one of the insurances covering Covid-19, so besides being covered from other ailments, they are covered when they get Covid-19, which is a good thing.
They are front line workers and now that schools are open, they are vulnerable… they can even be airlifted should the need arise,” she said.
Yesterday, Magoha disclosed that the President had initially asked Cabinet Secretaries aged 58 and above to work from home.
“Do you think I can work from home? If you tell me to work from home you are telling me to go and do something else.
Let us be serious about this, if a teacher feels he can work from home, it is voluntary… I do not even work from the office, I work from the field, meet me there and I am 58 plus years,” he said.
Elsewhere, private schools owners in Trans Nzoia County are feeling the heat of the coronavirus pandemic and contemplating closing business if the government does not step and cushion them from adverse economic effects.
The Kenya Private Schools Association Trans Nzoia chairman Samson Chepsiror said private schools are struggling to meet operational costs and may close after many children transferred to public schools.