Learners idle at home in emergency holiday

Monday, March 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Secondary school students from different institutions play at Ngangarithi estate in the outskirts of Nyeri town, last week. Photo/PD/JOSEPH KINGO’RI

Scholar Team

Most primary and secondary school learners countrywide are yet to access the digital and broadcast lessons under the government’s home-based learning initiative meant to complement school programmes during the unscheduled coronavirus break. 

Parents have not  introduced their children to the TV, radio or online programmes while others are ignorant of such opportunities.

Phaniece Oduka, a parent in Kisumu, says she learnt about the project on Friday. “I am making arrangements so my children can begin to learn through TV and radio.

At the moment they are only using a guidebook to study,” said Oduka.  

Another parent, Kenneth Odhiambo, said his children are yet to start learning through  Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) radio and TV as well as Edu TV lessons, which he knows about.  

Alice Wangui, a mother of two in Murang’a, pleaded ignorance of the programmes.  She is keeping her children in Grades Three and Four busy by buying them test papers. 

With the abrupt break to the school calendar prompted by the Covid-19 outbreak, parents, teachers and students are finding themselves in uncharted waters. 

Some secondary schools had already paced themselves to cover the first term syllabus even after the disruption occasioned by the Form One admission process.

The newest classes—both in primary and secondary schools were just settling down in terms of socialisation and curriculum implementation. 

Wendy Wamboi, a resident of Bamburi, in Mombasa, helps her Class Seven son Shawn Lukano revise. Photo/PD/BONFACE MSANGI 

Primary and secondary day schools are the most affected by the abrupt closure.

Most day scholars were at home only to be told there would be no schooling the following day.

“Only a few visited their schools the following day to seek holiday assignments or to pick their notes and textbooks,” said a high school teacher in Kajiado.

Media support 

The Ministry of Education has since stepped up measures to facilitate digital and broadcast lessons for learners in basic education institutions while they are at home.

In the move inititated last week,  the ministry is delivering the curriculum through four different platforms: TV, radio, YouTube and the Kenya Education Cloud.

The ministry has expressed determination to ensure all learners access relevant materials that will enable them to remain in pace with the curriculum calendar. 

However, this information has not reached many parents supposed to take the role of teachers for the time being.  

A deputy headteacher of a public primary school in Kiambu county, says the abrupt closure of schools on a Sunday evening brought a lot of confusion. “It was a shock; there was no warning.

No time to prepare for anything. Some of us later went to work just to collect our personal items,” she says. 

However, she adds, some parents and their children are adhering to the State digital learning programmes.

“What we need is support from media houses— particularly FM radios— to emphasise that the learning programmes on TV and radio are going on,” she says.

The tutor says what is becoming increasingly clear to parents is that coronavirus is a major threat.

“In Kabete area of Kiambu, I have noted that children are not allowed to roam the estates by their guardians,” she says. 

Few schools  have crafted homeworks  which pupils  can  work on for the time they will be at home.

When we asked a lower primary school teacher in Murang’a county whether the children were following digital broadcast lessons on government radio and TV stations, she laughed. 

“We gave out the timetable to parents and their children, but this generation is not interested in learning outside a classroom set-up.

They know the times when the broadcasts are running but they don’t care. We have given out some  homework but the pupils take just a day or two to work on it,” she added. 

 Mwalimu Zainab Mohammed (not her real name) said there is no learning going on for public school pupils in rural areas. “These children think they are on holiday,” she said.

Peninah Mwangi, a parent, said she is aware of the government’s education programme.

A civil servant, she is hibernating at home but is finding it hard to attend to her three children who are in different grades. 

“Being in different classes means I can only attend to one child at a time,” said Mwangi. 

The mother said home is different from the school environment which makes it hard for the children to pay attention to what is being taught. 

She  wants  Education officials to provide a guidebook for parents to be using at home.“For instance, kids know TV as an entertainment tool for them to watch cartoons,” she said.  

According to Pandpieri Primary School, Kisumu head teacher Veronica Otieno, the alternative digital and online learning opportunities will help the learners bridge the gap in learning.

“But they are only beneficial to those who can afford to access the programmes,” she says. 

Realistic timetable

She recommends that parents and learners develop a realistic timetable to cope up with the suspension in routine school learning programmes.

“Plan for study time, leisure time and recreational activities, with breaks in between just like the school routine,” she says.  

Her Victoria primary counterpart Edward Omala says the digital learning may not work well due to challenges in accessibility and inadequate support from parents.

“Parents are engaged in income-generating activities, with no time to supervise their children,” he says. 

In Nairobi, some private academies have organised for school vans to drop homework for the learners at designated collection points.

“Teachers alerted us that the school van would be going round the estates at the usual pick up time for pupils to deliver assignments for the children,” said Carol Chebet, a parent in Nairobi. - Mumero Mwangi, Noven Owiti and Wangari Njuguna 

More on Education