Unicef hails reopening of schools pledge aid

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Pupils in class. Photo/File

Irene Githinji and Kirera Mwiti @PeopleDailyKe

United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) yesterday welcomed the Ministry of Education’s move to gradually reopen schools from next week.

Unicef Representative to Kenya, Maniza Zaman reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the Government during this unprecedented and challenging time and called for the need to work together to ensure smooth transition.

She said Unicef will be supporting Ministry of Education with a ‘Back to School’ campaign, which aims at ensuring all children, including those who had previously dropped out, return to schools safely.

“Unicef welcomes the phased reopening of schools in Kenya. We know that the longer children are out of school, the greater the risk that the poorest among them will never return,” said Zaman in a statement.

To also help with safe reopening of schools, Zaman said Unicef has worked with the Government on guidelines for schools and is continuing to distribute soap and install hand-washing facilities in many schools that do not have them.

Accurate information

“As children return to school, we all need to come together to ensure this transition is smooth for the learners, teachers and the wider school community.

In addition to supporting water, sanitation and hygiene in schools, we will work with partners to provide parents with the reliable and accurate information they need.

Finally, we hope that soon all learners can be safely back in school,” she said.

According to Unicef, the drop-out rate for children at primary school level in Kenya was estimated at 21 per cent before the Covid-19 outbreak and it is possible that prolonged exposure could see more children drop out of the system.

She also said the closure exposes adolescent girls to a higher risk of sexual abuse, HIV and teenage pregnancy.

“The risks children face by not being in school is also that free school meals were provided to 1.6 million children in Kenya in 2019.

These are vulnerable children, who rely on school meals for a reliable source of daily nutrition,” she explained.

She said school closures reduce students’ future earning potential, the World Bank having estimated the economic loss from six months of school closure at $19,200 of lost earnings over a student’s lifetime, as a global average.

This came as a cloud of uncertainty rocked public schools that are yet to receive Government disbursement to support them.

Last week, the Ministry said it would release funds once learning resumes.

This came as head teachers in Nakuru and Nyandarua called on government to first release supporting funds to schools before they reopen on Monday.

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