Learning had to resume to avoid chaos in 2021 calendar
The thought of having more than three million learners in one class as a result of mass repetitions could have partly informed the decision to reopen schools on Monday.
Given the fact pupils currently in Grade 4 would have had to sit their national examinations in 2023 to join junior secondary education, the class would have found itself fighting for Form One places with the pupils currently in Class 6 under the 8-4-4 system who would also be joining at the same time.
There are about 1.6 million learners in Grade 4 and about 1.4 million in Class 6, all totalling three million, a number that would have been impossible to accommodate in one intake.
“This would require huge funds for infrastructure and other logistical support,” said one County Director of Education who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The situation is complicated further by the ongoing debate on whether to place junior secondary education under basic education or higher education system as is the case currently.
The two classes would have also found themselves fighting for a double intake by the time they cleared their final secondary school examinations four years later.
Educationists also argue that it was better for the government to save the children from repeating classes, a move that would have seen them enter the job market a year late.
This, according to educationists, would have destroyed hopes and to some extent, careers of a young generation.
“According to the accepted education development and growth cycle, it is an accepted global norm that students should clear their secondary education by the time they turn 18 years.
Repeating classes would have had cumulative consequences on the learners,” said Prof Bernard Manyibe, a lecturer at Langston University, Oklahoma US.
Prof Manyibe, a Kenyan based in the US, apart from the losses of an academic year, continued stay of learners at home was creating despondency that would have led to many failing to report back to school.
There have also been fears among educationists and parents about the increasing number of teen pregnancies among the school going female children during the pandemic, as they idled around in estates and villages.
For boys, there have been fears of a number of them, particularly those staying in poverty riddled areas, of losing hope in life and thereby engaging in social misfit activities.
As a result, faced with the dilemma of whether to leave the children stay at home until early next year or reopen schools immediately albeit with the fears of a possible resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government settled on the latter.
Proposals to open
To most educationists, the government’s choice seems to have been the lesser evil compared to earlier proposals to reopen schools next year when the country would have completely emerged out of the woods.
Going back to school during the coronavirus pandemic has elicited mixed emotions for teachers, students and parents, some of who have both wanted to see children back in school buildings but also have feared the risk of contracting Covid-19.
Although the government’s move faces several challenges ranging from the possibility of a spike in infections, inadequate resources and funds to implement the Ministry of Health recommended Covid-protocols, the benefits of reopening schools far outweighs them.
On Tuesday, Education CS Prof George Magoha announced the reopening of schools in phases, with priority being given to the pioneer Competency Based Curriculum class and the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) class and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates.
The candidates are expected to sit for their national examinations in March and April 2021.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion applauded the government’s decision as he implored Kenyans to avoid politicising and complicating the matter but instead give teachers total support and co-operation they need to ensure the process is successful by availing the students.
“From our assessment, we believe students are safer in school than at home and we need them back in full time,” said Sossion.
Sossion said the decision was informed by the Ministry of Health projections indicating that the Covid-19 curve had flattened as the required positivity rate of 5 per cent had been achieved.
Sossion was among educationists who believed the government’s decision would save students and pupils from repeating classes and as such save the country from facing the crisis of a possible double intake in future.