High population in schools a headache for administrators

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021 00:00 |
Travellers, mostly students and parents stranded at Mwembe Tayari Bus Terminus in Mombasa as most of students were headed for various schools in the Country. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

Mayhem persisted on the second day of mass re-opening of schools in the country as students continued to troop in the institutions for in-person learning. 

A cloud of uncertainty continued to hang on school managers on how to handle the high numbers in line with the public health regulations on Covid-19. 

With hundreds of schools revealing they are unable to meet the social-distancing requirement, questions have been raised on the safety of students in learning institutions. 

There has been a growing concern from education stakeholders, teachers and parents about being exposed to the infection due to congestion. 

Despite public school heads sticking huge posters at their gates warning that there was no space, parents from private institutions flocked seeking admissions. 

In Naivasha hundreds of parents were forced to transfer their children from private schools following an increase in school fees.  The parents were in for a rude shock after discovering that some of the private schools had hiked the fees by over Sh10,000. 

Naivasha sub-county education officer Bernard Chirchir confirmed that his office had processed tens of the transfers mainly in primary schools. 

He noted that the challenges differed from one institution to another with lack of school fees being the highest from the parents. 

Seek public school

“Some of the parents lost their jobs due to the pandemic while others cannot afford the new school fees and they have decided to seek a place in a public school,” he said. 

One of the proprietors of a private school confirmed that they had been forced to increase the school fees so as to meet all the set guidelines by the government. 

“We have been forced to increase the fees as our classes will have lesser students meaning we have to hire more teachers to cover the extra classes,” said the proprietor 

It was not a dissimilar situation in Kisumu county as parents rushed to seek admission for their children both in public schools. 

The biggest challenge for management of schools was on how to accommodate the incoming students considering that most of the facilities were already congested.  

Victoria Primary School head teacher Edward Omala said they were hesitant to accept the new learners due to the new public health regulations which demand social distancing. 

Omala noted that the school was making arrangements to turn other facilities such as halls and libraries into classes to tackle the overcrowding menace. 

“We may not handle the new admissions for now until we are sure of where to accommodate the excess numbers we have at the moment,” he said. 

On his part, Kosawo Primary School head teacher Paul Kaunda admitted having received numerous requests from parents whose children were in private schools. 

Having a population of over 3,000 pupils, Kaunda noted that their biggest challenge was spacing adding that it must be addressed first. 

“Unfortunately, we are not able to achieve social distancing since we only have 40 classrooms just as the Education CS said we will invent ways to manage the situation,” he said. 

At Pandpieri Primary School, the management was grappling with the challenge of accommodating its 148 candidates.

The institution’s head teacher Alex Diang’a said they were contemplating improvising alternative learning areas to decongest the population in order to comply with the Ministry of Health social distance regulation. 

He said they are considering putting some learners under trees and using public address systems to teach. 

“We will still make arrangements on how to accommodate the excess numbers including using safe corridors,” Diang’a said. 

At Kisumu Boys’ High school, three tents were erected to help decongest student’s population in classes. 

The school principal Peter Obwogo said that they were all mentally prepared to commence learning under the new normal. 

Obwogo said the institution had also put up a 150-capacity dormitory and another extra classroom to accommodate the students under Covid-19 containment protocols. 

In Nakuru, a number of public schools have called on the Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company (Nawassco) to ensure timely supply of water at the institutions. 

School heads in a number of public schools in Bahati revealed that they have been forced to buy water from vendors in order to fill their storage. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the heads noted that they spend at least Sh3,000 for a water bowser that goes for a day or so due to the high numbers. 

They noted that despite installing hand washing points and procuring soaps for the exercise, there lack of water to satisfy the numbers was a huge challenge. 

“We are spending a lot of non-budgeted money to buy water and we are paying for water yet we are not getting the commodity in good time,” said one the principal.  

In Mombasa County hundreds of students travelling were left stranded at various bus terminuses even as Public Service Vehicles (PSV) operators defied government directives against hiking of bus fares. 

Most parents were forced to dig deeper to meet bus fare which had been tripled. 

“Considering that we have to pay school fees after spending in December, we find this way too exorbitant for us and we don’t know what to do,” Kahindi Ngumbao said. 

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