Where Corona guidelines do not exist

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020 00:00 |
Ndeda Island Primary School pupils. Photo/PD/Harriet James

Harriet James @harriet86jim

As national examinations candidates and Grade Four learners trooped back to school yesterday, pupils at Ndeda Island Primary School in Siaya reported back to an institution that has not taken any measures against Covid-19. 

The 30-year-old facility, the only primary school in the small fishing island does not have basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and water tanks to cater its 360 pupils. 

 A majority of the pupils People Daily interviewed were elated to return to school, however, there are a myriad of challenges they have to surmount before settling down. 

For instance, for Lavenda Adhiambo, 14, going back to school will keep her busy and give her an opportunity to enjoy one of her hobbies; studying. 

“I am delighted that at least I will be in school studying and not at home doing nothing. I was really wondering when schools will be finally reopen,” she says.

However, in an interview with the headmaster Kennedy Mola he has laid bare the sorry state of the school. 

Even with the Covid-19 threat, the school has only one toilet shared by learners and teachers.

“Digging one pit latrine would cost Sh15,000. Putting up a structure that would accommodate all of us would cost Sh100,000. We do not have the money,” he explains. 

Access to clean drinking water is also another major challenge. In this time of the pandemic where adequate water and soap is a prerequisite, the school does not have sufficient supply.

They had one tank donated by Plan International, which was blown away by the wind. 

“The pupils drink water direct from the lake, which is not safe. Two years ago we had an outbreak of cholera because of this and nothing has been done yet to curb a recurrence,” he said

Early marriages 

Mola lives in Usenge, the other side of the Island. He has restricted going back to his family to weekends only  to avoid crossing over to the other side of the island because the turbulence of the lake makes it hard and dangerous for them to cross. 

He stays in school to ensure fishermen do not lure young girls into early marriages. His only fear is that with the pandemic, many of them might not return to school because of pregnancies. 

“I ensure the girls from Class Five spend time in school so that they are assured of their safety. I give them assignments to keep them busy and focused,” he says.

 The population in this 27km2 island mainly comprises of fishermen, who say they do not have money to buy their children masks and sanitisers.

“The season has been bad for us and now that the school is open, we really do not know how things will be now that our children are in school,” says James Odiyo, a parent.

The school is also understaffed and has only six teachers who teach the 360 pupils.

Muga Amos has been a teacher since 2016. He has witnessed the challenges of working in an understaffed school. 

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