Digital learning still a myth in Masailand as Covid-19 bites
Majority of Masai children in Narok and Kajiado counties cannot access education through television sets, mobile phones and online platforms, more than a month after all schools were closed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The learners, including Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates, have been left on their own.
This is despite government assurances that all school children are learning.
Mobile telephony, radio, road and electricity infrastructure in the two counties have not penetrated outside main towns, making continued learning difficult. This is disenfranchising thousands of Masai pupils and students.
Many parents are also finding it difficult to reach shopping centres in time to charge their phones and return home to beat the 7pm to 5am curfew as the rains continue.
Worse, due to social distancing, the few TV sets available, powered by solar or car batteries but with poor reception, are inaccessible to neighbouring households.
In Transmara, which has been experiencing tribal and clan land clashes, curfew hours are 4pm to 8am.
This has made residents to fear going out to charge their devises which could be used by children to access learning lest they are arrested.
The insecurity has also forced many traders to close their doors while families with candidates have been displaced.
“Our kids spend most of their time herding and helping their mothers with house chores,” says Richard ole Nairuko of Entasekera on the Kenya-Tanzania border in Narok South.
Nairuko, an elder and a father of two KCPE candidates, says residents visit towns to know what is happening in the country and in their counties.
Most far-flung areas of Narok have poor mobile telephony penetration; residents only get news from radio stations in Tanzania.
Nairuko wants the State to either delay or suspend this year’s national exams because children in rural areas are ill- prepared.
“We also get medical attention in clinics in Tanzania and buy household essentials there,” Nairuko told Scholar.
John Sikawa from Olomismis in Transmara says his three children aged between 12 and 16, pupils at a neighbouring primary school, spend their time at home since they cannot go out due to insecurity.
“I slaughter a goat when it is necessary to provide more food because shops where we used to buy food have been closed after tribal clashes erupted in 2018,” he says.
Paul Lepore, the Narok Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Executive Secretary says post Covid-19, examinations should be rescheduled to allow disadvantaged children to cover lost ground.
“There’s no learning here that Kenyans are being made to believe. There is no need to rush on exams,” he said.