Why September reopening didn’t work

Thursday, July 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Kuppet Secretary Genera Akello Misori. Photo/PD/FILE

A warning by experts that Covid-19  cases could spike in September when schools were supposed to have been re-opened was the main reason Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha pushed the resumption of learning to next year, People Daily has learnt

Magoha was faced with the challenge of enforcing social distance in 40,000 schools with a population of 14 million students and pupils were the schools to open in September as earlier proposed.

The 10-member team formed by Magoha to look into the reopening of schools is said to have found itself between a rock and hard place.

“We were faced with numerous challenges over the issue, but we ultimately decided to postpone the entire school year calendar till next year in order to save the lives of the 14 million learners,” Akello Misori, the Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) who was a member of the task force told People Daily

Other sources within the committee revealed that members of the taskforce were unanimous that almost all schools in the country lacked adequate running tap water, which is a prerequisite for any institution to operate during the pandemic. 

“Almost 80 per cent of our institutions experience water shortage, with majority being forced to use basins and buckets to bath.

Most students in schools in rural areas are forced to trek kilometres to get water,” a member of the committee said.  

Members of the task force were also hard pressed on dealing with the shortage of teachers if they were to resort to learning in shifts, with majority of those in service aging and almost retiring; teachers and staffs in private schools who would be forced to do without salaries if schools are not re-opened immediately; and the dilemma of enforcing social distance in boarding schools.  

On the issue of boarding schools, Misori says though they are few in number, they accommodate the highest number of students and pupils.

“For example, in boarding schools, how were going to deal with situations where students in boarding schools use double or triple decker beds?” Misori asked.

Misori says the proposal to have students and pupils learn in shifts was dropped due to the technicalities, which included travel, teachers’ shortages and psychological impact on the learners. 

According to Misori, this phased learning system, apart from lacking accountability and therefore prone to abuse by the school administrations, would have overworked the few teachers without giving them time to rest.

But above, was the warning by the health experts from seconded to the team by the Ministry of Health that the pandemic would hit Kenya hardest in the months of September.

“The modelling presented to us by the experts posed more questions than answers.

What would happen if three of four students in a school develop a fever, what do you do to avoid causing panic in the school?

Do you shut down the entire school and send all the children home? “ Magoha asked.

The Ministry of Health has so far confirmed 8,528  Covid-19 infections with 169 deaths.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 537,000 lives in 188 countries and regions since originating in Wuhan, China in December.

The US, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the worst hit countries.  More than 11.5 million Covid-19 cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries exceeding 6.28 million, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.

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