It is back to school after long seven-month Covid-19 break

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Students prepare to board a matatu after schools closed in March due to Covid-19 pandemic. Photo/PD/FILE

The seven-month Covid-19 imposed closure of schools will finally come to an end on Monday when a section of learners resume classes.

This is after the Ministry of Education yesterday announced a phased reopening of schools, starting with the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) Grade 4, Class Eight and Form Four candidates.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said the revised 2020 school calendar will see the second term for Grade 4, Class Eight and Form Four run for 11 weeks from October 12 to  December 23.

Learners will then break for a one-week holiday, from December 24 and resume on January 4, 2021, up to March 19.

Magoha said the Kenya Certificate of Primary of Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams will be taken in March.

Presidential directive

Class Eight students will sit their exams from March 22 to March 24 while the Form Four tests will be taken from March 25 to April 16.

The Form Four exam will be marked for three weeks, from April 19 to May 5.

“Pursuant to a Presidential directive issued to the nation on September 28 and following broad-based education stakeholder consultations, the Ministry of Education notifies the public that progressive reopening of schools will commence with Grade 4, Class 8 and Form 4,” Magoha said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Education, in collaboration with that of Health will continuously monitor adherence to guidelines on health and safety protocols for reopening of basic education institutions amid Covid-19 pandemic in order to determine when to reopen for all other learners in primary and secondary schools.” 

However, it emerged yesterday that Grade 3, Class 7 and Form 3 learners may resume on October 19, but this will depend on the coronavirus situation. 

The idea is to stagger reopening for different classes and have all children back in school by November 2, if there is no fresh outbreak of the disease.

There is a proposal to have the Early Childhood Education (ECD) learners reopen in mid November after the rest have settled down.

If a Covid-19 case is reported in a school, the institution will be closed and if the affected sub-county is densely populated, all learning institutions in the locality will be closed.

It is, however, not clear who will shoulder the burden should cases be reported in schools.

An advisory to the CS has proposed that the 2021 calendar starts with teachers reporting to school on May 3, 2021 and students arriving a week later.

The curriculum will be taught for about 30 weeks, with the 2021 academic year expected to be divided into blocks of about 10 weeks.

National exams are proposed to start in late November through to December 20, after which the 2022 academic year will start in mid January and proceed normally.

As schools reopen, Magoha directed that all learners, teachers and non-teaching staff will be required to strictly adhere to Covid-19 protocols.

He said there will be mandatory use of face masks, monitoring body temperature for all learners, staff and all other persons accessing schools, hand washing and observance of high levels of hygiene.

Where there is no running water, schools should use hand sanitiser.

“Although physical distancing will remain a challenge, it should not be used as a bottleneck to keep away children from school,” warned Magoha.

He said all schools that had been used as quarantine centres had been fumigated under supervision of the Ministry of Health in readiness for reopening.

“Schools that had been designated as quarantine centres but not used need not be fumigated prior to reopening,” said the CS.

Magoha said all schools had been linked to the nearest public health facility prior to being reopened.

Psychosocial support

“All teachers are encouraged to continuously provide psychosocial and spiritual support to learners and school support staff during the duration of the current pandemic,” the CS directed.

Boards of Management, principals and headteachers are to ensure full compliance with the guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry of Health.

“The Government thanks parents, guardians and caregivers for their patience and resilience in supporting learners’ welfare during Covid-19 period.

Parents, guardians and caregivers of learners in Grade 4, Class 8 and Form 4 are now encouraged to prepare their children for resumption of learning on October 12,” Magoha said.

He announced that the Government had met full costs of KCPE and KCSE examinations for all candidates.

Even as the Government mobilises support, parents should prepare themselves to shoulder the burden and get masks for their children.

Last week, the CS said it’s about time children resumed learning because the disease is here to stay.

“I think it is time to reopen schools according to the committee that I had appointed but what we are doing now is ensuring we do the best we can because in the region we are the only ones who have not opened,” the CS told the National Assembly Committee on education.

“With thorough consultation, the Government will have to bite the bullet and allow the children back to school, with the concept being to start with examination classes,” he added.

The ministry is looking for masks and so far the UN children’s agency (Unicef) will donate about 700,000 which will be distributed to most vulnerable schools in slums.

Similarly, he said KCB bank had promised to provide another 1 million masks and the Government will continue sourcing for support for vulnerable children.

A private entity he did not name has offered to supply thermo guns to every secondary school and the ministry is negotiating with KCB to do the same with primary schools and Government will only be left with soap and sanitisers.

On Monday, the ministry released participatory training module for staff of learning institutions on Covid-19 to facilitate effective re-opening and ensure continued learning.

The ministry directed that all teaching and non-teaching staff should be conversant with facts concerning the Covid-19 pandemic and will be required to ensure full compliance and implementation of the guidelines and health measures.

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