Address Covid spacing challenge in schools
The Education sector is facing a crisis of monumental proportions as schools prepare to reopen on January 4, as decreed by the relevant ministry.
Schools were closed early this year following the Covid-19 outbreak to ensure safety of learners.
Now, children are preparing to return to school at a time coronavirus cases are on the rise with little evidence of measures to ensure social distancing in learning institutions.
The reality is that without expansion of existing infrastructure - by building additional classrooms and other facilities - it would be impossible to enforce social distancing protocol. This would render learners gravely exposed in case of infection.
The Education ministry gave the directive for schools to reopen without disbursing funds for development of infrastructure, mainly classrooms and dormitories.
Moreover, the government has not disbursed funds for free secondary and primary education as well as money to mitigate effects of the virus.
A number of schools have desks, but head teachers have raised concern that they have no space for them. Some schools host has many as 3,000 students and spacing them in classrooms or dormitories is a big challenge.
Moreover, some schools with huge student populations will require as many as 80 additional classrooms as well as extra laboratories, libraries and dining halls.
The situation is made worse by the fact that the National Treasury is yet to disburse funds to MPs under the National Government Constituency Development Fund which could be used to expand spaces in schools.
Likewise, county government are yet to receive money from Nairobi and, therefore, cannot afford to fund additional infrastructure in learning institutions.
The net effect is that the country is confronted with a situation where millions of young people will be lumped together in overcrowded schools with little mechanism to ensure their safety in the middle of a pandemic.
And the truth is that various stakeholders in the education sector - from parents, teachers and education officials - are in the dark on any possibilities of improving the situation as government insists the opening date will not be changed.
More confusing is the fact that top government officials, notably Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and his PS Belio Kipsang’ have been largely missing in action.
It cannot be gainsaid that the education of children is important, but the relevant authorities must come out and explain measures that have been put in place to enable schools to protect learners from Covid-19 when they report to class.