Magoha hints at June re-opening of schools

Monday, April 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Students in class.

Irene Githinji @gitshee

The government yesterday pushed the re-opening of schools by a month, meaning learning could resume on June 4 instead of May 4.

Education Minister George Magoha said the extension of the school holiday will not scuttle the national examinations; Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education(KCSE) examinations.

“I want to emphasise the fact that the past four weeks, children have been on normal vacation an activity that will end on May 4 and in the interest of the safety and lives of our children, the government has decided to extend closure for a month, effective the date of opening,” he said yesterday during the daily briefing on coronavirus.

He emphasised that during this period, interventions to be taken will depend on how the government is able to control the virus.

Prof Magoha said whenever examinations will be administered, every child will have been given an opportunity to cover whatever time is lost before they can sit for their national examinations, adding that the government has not decided to postpone both KCPE and KCSE exams.

“The government loves all the children, those with special needs, those from poor vicinities, from middle class and from well-to-do… let the children enjoy their last week of holiday and then start the one month that has been added to them,” said Magoha.

 President Uhuru ordered closure of schools on March 16, three weeks ahead of schedule, as the government rolled out measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Increase anxiety

The pandemic has so far infected more than 2.5 million people and claimed over 200,000 lives globally. 

The extension of the school holiday comes as the number of confirmed cases for coronavirus rose to 355 yesterday, after 12 more people tested positive for the disease in the last 24 hours.

Eight of the new cases were reported in Nairobi and four in Mombasa. All the 12 are Kenyans but three of them have a recent history of travel to Somalia.

On the positive, 106 patients have so far recovered after eight more patients were discharged in the last 24 hours.

Earlier in the month, Education Principal Secretaries were instructed to audit their departments and submit proposals on contingency plans.

Already, the ministry has unveiled a Sh16 billion budget plan to avert effects of the coronavirus disease on education, so that the sector is not caught off guard.

The response plan indicates that interruption of learning processes is likely to increase anxiety and uncertainty regarding national examinations as well as increased psychological trauma among learners, teachers and parents.

It further points to inequity in the ongoing online programmes as a majority of learners do not have access to digital platforms due to lack of devices and internet connectivity at home; different levels of parental knowledge and attitude given that parents are supposed to support children in learning.

Explore modalities

“Prolonged closure of schools could lead to child labour, school drop outs, child pregnancies and early marriages, loss of jobs and income for some non-teaching staff. There is likelihood to be discrimination and stigmatisation of learners who would be affected and or infected,” reads the ministry’s plan.

The ministry has since stated the need for seamless learning to ensure children do not lose out on essential learning times that could have an impact on their developmental milestones.

The government is implementing the e-learning programme, which has however been met with criticism since not all children have been able to access it.

Opinion is divided on whether children are benefitting from virtual learning, given the different geographical conditions for the some households.

 Second Term was to run from May 4 to August 7 while third term was to commence on August 31 to October 30 to pave way for both KCPE and KCSE exams.

KCPE exams were expected to run between November 2 and 5, while KCSE tests will run for three weeks from November 6 to 30 but it remains unclear whether this schedule will be followed.

The half term breaks for second terms was scheduled for June 15 to 19.

Last week, Uhuru allayed fears about exam postponement, saying they will be written as scheduled.

Despite the assurances, questions still abound on candidates’ preparedness and completion of the syllabus, which in most instances is usually done with by mid second term to allow students time to revise.

The President said the Education ministry is working on modalities to ensure national exams are undertaken and a comprehensive schedule on the same will be communicated in due course.

“The biggest responsibility we have right now is to ensure that candidates will sit the exams and we are exploring a framework to make sure this happens.

The Ministry of Education is exploring modalities which should be put in place especially after the pandemic is addressed,” he said.

It is still unclear how universities and colleges will cover for lost time. 

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