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Court gives conditions for reopening of schools

By Irene Githinji
Friday, October 9th, 2020
Parents shop for children’s books at the Anvi Emporium Bookshop in Kisumu yesterday ahead of the school’s re-opening on Monday. Photo/PD/Viola Kosome
In summary

The High court yesterday dealt the Education ministry a blow after it ordered that schools reopen only after adhering to all Covid-19 protocols.

High Court judge Kimani Ndung’u agreed with a petition filed by eight parents in May against the ministry over the resumption of learning in schools.

“Upon hearing the petitioners, counsel for the respondents and the mediator, Mr John Onyiego, it is, therefore, ordered that the mediation agreement duly signed by parties and dated August 25, 2020, and which is duly signed by all parties, is adopted as the judgment of the court,” the judge ruled.

It was not immediately clear whether the ruling would affect planned reopening of schools on Monday as announced by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Tuesday. 

The ruling came as private schools yesterday appeared to relax the punitive demands they had set on full payment of fees ahead of the resumption of learning.

The private schools association advised the thousands of learning institutions affiliated to it to provide flexible fees payment terms based on individual cases.

The Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) chief executive Peter Ndoro said the fees issue should be dealt with in a manner that will not compromise access and provision of quality education in a safe and healthy environment.

Irrespective of availability of space, Ndoro said all private schools should strictly adhere to reopening of the stated Grade 4, Class 8 and Form 4 and wait for announcement for other classes by the Ministry of Education.

Resume lessons

“Private schools in Kenya depend entirely on school fees paid for by parents when their children are in session and in school for all their operational support. Without school fees private schools cannot survive.

Given the challenges that we face, private schools should consider giving flexible school fees payment terms…,” said Ndoro in a statement.

The private schools guidelines came as the Kenya Association of International Schools (KAIS) announced that its learning institutions will resume lessons on Tuesday November 3.

“We will be welcoming children into school after our half-term from Tuesday, 3rd November, 2020,” said a letter from one of the schools, seen by People Daily. The reopening will be phased.

“During the week commencing Monday, October 12, 2020, small groups of students may be invited in for specific activities in preparation for the full reopening after half-term.

On Monday, 2nd November 2020, we will be running an orientation day for our staff and no Remote Teaching and Learning (RTL) Programme will be offered that day.

This is an important opportunity for our staff to familiarise themselves with finalised operational protocols at that time, to be ready when children return to school,” the letter added.

“Our staff have undergone tailored training with the Kenya Red Cross to provide clear and actionable guidance for safe operations through the prevention, early detection, and control of Covid-19 in an international school setting.”

On its part, the private schools association advised that participation or otherwise in online classes during the pandemic period should not be used in any way to disadvantage a learner.

Ndoro reminded private schools that the association had issued guidelines in May that stated that online learning was to be treated as a separate programme from normal school term contracts and was optional for learners and their parents.

His remarks came against the backdrop of some schools reportedly demanding that school fees should be paid in full as the children resume learning on Monday, a situation that came as a shocker to some of the parents.

Similarly, a school in Nairobi is on the spot after it stated that parents who did not enrol their children for online classes are considered to have withdrawn from that school and have to seek readmission.

“This is to inform you that your child failed to enrol for the school e-learning programme despite frequent reminders for the last five months. The pupil is considered to have withdrawn from the school,” read a letter to a parent.

The private schools association urged its members to continue putting in place required measures to safely accommodate learners for the other  classes in anticipation of the pronouncement on reopening by the ministry.

Special loans

“The general Kenyan economy has been depressed and majority of the economic sectors have been struggling which has consequently affected the parents taking their children to school,” he added.

Ndoro urged the government to expedite release of the promised Sh7 billion stimulus package to private schools to enable them to run smoothly.

Some schools especially private one, have sought financial assistance from banks in terms of loans to keep up with requirements for observing Covid-19 protocols.

The specials loan facility, he said, takes into consideration the challenges schools have undergone in the seven months learning was suspended.

He said that so far, the association had received notifications from at least 196 schools which had shut down, which will see at least 56,000 children affected.

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