Covid-19 exposes our soft underbelly on many fronts

Friday, July 10th, 2020 00:00 |
Education CS Prof George Magoha.


Every one talked of a new normal at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, yet very few could predict what this new normal would look like.

Majority envisioned a dark cloud that would pass in a matter of weeks. But months later, the impact of the disease is still being felt as States try to protect not only their resources, but also their global socio-political image. 

Back home nothing would have prepared our education sector for the changes that it has had to make to accommodate the plague.

Indeed, addressing the impact of the disease has been more than locking borders and counting numbers.

It has also been about saving future generations, which must live to pass down the knowledge and memories of our current experiences. 

Consequently, the decision by the Ministry of Education to close schools until January 2021 has been welcomed by a large section of society.

Those in support of the move affirm that it is necessary to keep the children at home even as parents deal with the ravages of the disease.

The logic behind this decision is also widely supported as parents appreciate the challenges that reopening schools would have occasioned. 

In his address to the nation, the Education CS George Magoha, highlighted the key obstacles the education sector was likely to face if the children were to resume classes.

The rise in the rate of infections across the country for instance, has increased the fears that more people could be infected with the virus than initially predicted.

Exposing the children to that rapacious tide would be unwise for a country that prides itself in its demographic dividend. 

Further, that children may not be capable of strict observance of the public hygiene measures without proper supervision is likely to leave them at the mercy of the disease.

Such supervision is predicated upon having the requisite human and financial resources within learning institutions, and the ministry would thus be expected to hire twice or thrice the number of teachers to ensure that the children wash their hands, maintain social distancing and wear their masks at all times. 

And then there is the issue of transitions from one grade to another. Our national academic calendar demands for a smooth implementation of the 8-4-4 system for our older students.

The KCPE and KCSE exams are well-established rites of passage that the Ministry of Education strives to maintain.

Their undertaking is linked with our other resource allocation initiatives, which without proper planning can have a ripple effect on other segments of our economy. 

Keeping the children at home is thus an agreeable compromise struck by the ministry.

It will keep our children safe, regularize our academic calendar and spare us the economic and operational difficulties that come with resource allocation during and after a pandemic. 

The next six months should however, provide stakeholders within the education sector ample time to address some of the policy and operational issues pertaining to education in Kenya.

Despite the Free Primary and Free Secondary Education policies, issues of access, quality, equity, relevance and efficiency continue to dog the education sector.

At the moment, the fact that not all students are able to participate in online learning is an eye opener to the need for more collaboration for the integration of ICT in our education system.

In particular, what measures is the ministry taking to fill this technological gap for 2021 and beyond?

To what extent is the visually and hearing impaired child catered for in this digital plan and how will the quality of this digital education be monitored moving forward?

How can the ministry take advantage to this six-months lag to upgrade facilities in some rural and semi-urban schools and ensure that enough teachers are trained and hired in preparation for 2021? 

Undeniably, the corona pandemic has occasioned its fair share of distress, yet it is also providing an opportunity for us to press the rest button in a number of areas.

How we deal with some of the opportunities it is providing will determine our level of preparedness for the future.  —The writer is an Advocate of the High Court

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