Schools must reopen in spite of Covid, says CS Magoha

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020 00:00 |
Students prepare to board a matatu after schools closed in March due to Covid-19 pandemic. Photo/PD/FILE

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha yesterday said it is about time children resumed  learning even as he admitted some of the health protocols by the Ministry of Health cannot be achieved.

Magoha said he has visited a majority of basic education institutions and established that social distancing aspect cannot be achieved.

He said consultations on how to reopen is still ongoing thus he is not allowed to announce the actual date, as the Government continues to identify the weakest links that require immediate action.

Magoha said reopening for basic institutions will be made gradually, starting with Standard Eight and Form Four candidates.

“Reopening should take cognisance of guiding principles of the Ministries of Health and Education.

Having personally visited our basic institutions, we will not achieve what we call social distancing… it is a fact yet children must reopen and go back to school,” the CS told the National Assembly committee on Education yesterday.

Adding: “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.”

Stressing the need to reopen, the CS said there may not be a significant difference between now and January.

Private entity

“I think it is time to reopen schools. What we are doing is ensuring the best we can because  in the region we are the only ones who have not opened,” he added.

Magoha also said masks are going to be mandatory for every learner.

The ministry, he said, is sourcing for support and so far,  United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) will make and distribute  about 700,000  masks to the most vulnerable schools.

Similarly, the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) has accepted to provide another one million masks and the Government will continue sourcing for support to give to 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 Kenya Commercial Bank to do the same with primary schools and the Government will only be left with soap and sanitizers.

He said the ministry has mapped out water facilities and with the support of MPs, most of it is done and the Government is not worried.

 “We are looking at ways to get water to just a few schools because some of the contractors are ‘mercenaries’ so the Government will use systems that are cheap to get water to school,” explained the CS.

He said the Government will create a command and control centre as soon as schools reopen to conduct real time monitoring of protocols to ensure they are all available other than social distancing.

As the Government looks at how to improve the situation, especially water and masks, Magoha said the issue of desks is ongoing, even as he expressed optimism that no court cases will hinder the process going forward.

He said the World Bank has also given funds that will assist in monitoring the situation in schools.

“It is not my decision. Experts sat down and talked about this issue several times  and agreed the kind of risks to take.

Most of the children are not at home and at schools, so where are they? We want them in schools where they can be controlled but this decision will have to be agreed upon by all stakeholders,” he explained. 

Magoha said the teachers were recalled to schools a few days ago and the Government will work with them to ensure that no child is exposed.

Positive pronouncement

Magoha noted that the ministry will continue sourcing for monetary support despite the low tax base saying the gradual reopening economy will go a long way in boosting revenue.

“I cannot give a date but can assure that the Government is taking everything into consideration and once there is consensus a positive pronouncement will be made soon.”

He said the ‘negative pronouncement’ is already there – January reopening - but he said it is time to re-evaluate on what is going to be different in January 2021 than now.

On Tuesday, Magoha said examination classes of Teachers Training Colleges and Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutions as well as universities will report on October 5.

Education officials in conjunction with public health officials will continuously monitor and review levels of compliance with respect to health measures.

The CS issued the directive after President Uhuru Kenyatta directed that modalities on how learners will resume be comprehensively agreed upon first.

President Uhuru on Monday said safety and wellbeing of children is of paramount consideration not the date of reopening.

At the same time, the Ministry said it has disbursed monies required for infrastructure development and will only give some more once schools resume.

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