Fast-track schools re-opening talks, Uhuru directs Magoha

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
Students in class. Photo/PD/File

Irene Githinji @gitshee

President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday directed the Ministry of Education to fast-track and finalise ongoing consultations to provide an appropriate calendar for the gradual resumption of schools.

He said the calendar should guide resumption of learning amid the emerging trends of the coronavirus disease infections.

“The guidelines should include protocols to be followed by all learning institutions to guarantee the safety of our children,” said the President, in his 57th Madaraka Day celebrations speech yesterday.

The President also directed the Interior and Health ministries to continue their engagement with religious leaders on the reopening of places of worship.

“Conscious of Kenya as a God-fearing nation, I direct Ministry of Interior and Health to continue and hasten their engagement with religious leaders; with the objective of developing protocols that will be adopted to guide a more participatory way of worship while guaranteeing the safety of worshipers,” he directed.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha appointed a nine-member Covid-19 National Education Response Committee and is due to give a report on the way forward for the sector.

The committee presented the interim report to Magoha, with keen focus being made on the health and safety of learners in schools once they are reopened.

Interim report

“The ministry recognises that the process of reopening schools will not be a switch-on-switch-off affair but rather a carefully thoughtout and methodical process that must guarantee the safety and health of all learners, teachers and staff,” said the CS when he received the interim report last Friday.

He said the ministry will focus on coming up with strong mitigation measures that will be required in schools once they re-open based recommendations of the committee and the Health ministry.

“The ministry will desist from focusing on school reopening dates and instead give priority to putting in place solid mitigation measures for the sector ecosystem,” Magoha said last week.

No hurry

Schools were to re-open for the Second Term on May 4 but the government extended the holiday by another month, owing to the rising number of coronavirus cases reported in the country.

Details of the national response committee had indicated a change in academic calendar, with a proposal to have his year’s national exams pushed to a next year and that schools be reopened in September.

However, the CS seemingly dismissed some of the recommendations of the report saying reopening should not be hastened.

“Parents should prepare to stay with their children longer until the health situation in the country stabilises.

As at now, I cannot say when schools will resume. For me time lines and national exams are not a priority, they can even stay until January,” he said.

Senators have raised concern over the status of education in the country and urged the Ministry of Education to urgently address what they termed as confusion and imbalance in the sector.

They stated that no learning was going on at homes.

The Senators said it has come to a point whereby radical pronouncements must be made on the education sector, bearing in mind that it might take a long time before the spread of coronavirus is contained. 

Idle learners

The senators were concerned that not only are millions of children idling at homes and easily exposed to various social ills but also the gap between the rich and the poor is expanding, to the detriment of the latter.

They disagreed with the Ministry that learning has been going on by other means.

Schools and places of worship and other social places were closed in mid March, as part of several measures to contain the spread of coronavirus disease.

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