Ministry should give clear direction on education
That Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives and economies across the world requires no emphasis.
The most obvious disruption, however, is in those sectors that are regulated by tight timelines. One of the most critical sectors is education.
The outbreak of this virus in our country gave us no chance to plan what to do with our education and institutions of learning, during the life of the virus in our country and after.
In the arising emergency, the logical thing to do was to close schools and colleges, as we did, and to send the learners home.
The fate of some 1.2 million KCPE and 700,000 KCSE candidates hangs in the balance.
Overall, about 15 million learners who should be in school are at home. While it is possible to appreciate the fears that led to the rushed closure of institutions of learning, it is difficult to come to terms with the reality that the Ministry of Education is still sending out speculative messages on the fate of learning, especially on KCPE and KCSE exams.
What the country needs from the ministry are definitive messages on the way forward.
As long as Covid-19 remains with us, it is expected the ministry could get bona fide leaders of the key stakeholder entities in education in a constructive dialogue, to reflect together and plan the way forward.
So far, the ministry has only made random pronouncements mostly given in the sidelines of Ministry of Health briefings.
The statements have only left the country confused, with learners, teachers and parents in limbo.
Education is the backbone of all the other sectors and must demonstrate the highest levels of planning and informed action.
To this end, we must avoid the habit of decrees and lone-ranger approaches of the kind that the Education ministry is used to.
The ministry, Teachers Service Commission, teacher unions, and the Kenya National Examinations Council must constitute a team to plan the way forward.
They will also need to work with the Ministry of Health and National Treasury.
The state education is extremely worrying at present. We have heard government officials say learning is going on, online.
They have also said that national examinations will go on as was scheduled. We don’t know of any measures that the ministry has made for parents, teachers and learners to facilitate, equalise, and monitor home learning.
Without clearly defined State-facilitated learning packages, it is misleading to claim that learning is going on.
Not every learner has access to radio or TV and less still to the internet.
Even those who can physically access these facilities are challenged with the costs of activating them. Let us not cheat ourselves. We may need to take drastic decisions on education.
Syllabuses have not been covered and may not be covered. Our exam-based education is about syllabuses. We cannot have exams when syllabuses have not been covered.
Some schools, colleges and universities have been earmarked as isolation centres for Covid-19 suspected cases.
There is need for a clear strategic approach to counselling and removal of stigma, ahead of reopening of these places as institutions of learning.
Indeed, there is need to ensure that they are fumigated and confirmed to be safe and Covid-19 free.
Institutions of learning also face serious financial challenges in the days ahead, both in terms of running academic programmes and other capitation and operational costs.
This is coming in the wake of families being challenged with loss of jobs and earnings. There are many other challenges ahead of school re-opening post-Covid-19.
We must plan how to deal with the possibility of outbreaks of Covid-19 in schools after the learners go back.
Finally, there are outstanding old issues in education, prior to Covid-19. Some pertain to the change of curriculum, while others are labour issues.
This is the time to reflect and plan together on how to address them. —The writer is Party Leader, Amani National Congress