CS Magoha: National exams could be pushed to April
Irene Githinji and Roy Lumbe
This year’s national exams could be pushed to April next year if schools re-open in September when the coronavirus situation in the country is projected to have started to stabilise.
Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said should the Class Eight and Form Four candidates not sit the exams in April, the government will be forced to push the tests further to November 2021.
“The government is also still considering what is the latest time schools can open and still do the exam. For the exam timetable we are hoping the latest we can still do the exam and escape is April.
Beyond that we must be prepared for what I do not want to say at the moment,” the CS said.
Speaking in Nakuru yesterday, Magoha said safety of learners was paramount in whatever decision that will be arrived at.
“Re-opening of schools will depend on whether or not we get stakeholder agreements on when it is less risky to take children to school and that is dependent on the Ministry of Health.
At this stage, the numbers (of Covid-19 infections) are going up and most likely the peak will be between September and October and if so we cannot open schools,” the CS said.
Magoha spoke on a day that 213 people tested positive for coronavirus, the highest number recorded in the country within 24 hours.
His sentiments were endorsed by education stakeholders who emphasised that safety of children comes first, adding that “examinations are not a matter of life and death”.
Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chairperson Nicholas Gathemia said there should be no rush to re-open schools as well as administer exams.
“Remember whenever schools resume, whether in September or in January next year, there is one constant; that all learners will go back to the classes they were in when they closed in March and also start from where they stopped because there has not been uniformity with virtual learning,” Gathemia said.
Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) chief executive Peter Ndoro said whatever time schools re-open, students should be able to complete the syllabus before candidates can sit their national exams.
“When we resume, we will start from where we left. The most important thing is students covering what is expected of them and re-organising ourselves before an exam is administered,” said Ndoro.
“If we are to re-open in September and cover the syllabus to have exams administered by April, that will be fine. Exams test on content that has already been taught.”
Addressing a press conference at Nakuru Girls Secondary School yesterday, Magoha hinted at the possibility of students remaining in the same classes next year, meaning there won’t be progression to the next level.
Much as majority of private schools have been able to progress in learning, the CS said all learners will begin where they left, when schools closed indefinitely in March.
The CS conducted a fact-finding mission in Nakuru on the level of preparedness of learning institutions with regard to gradual reopening.
He said the biggest challenge remains the social and physical distancing in institutions, admitting that most public institutions were full to capacity after the ministry implemented the 100 per cent transition just before the pandemic struck.
“We are under strict instructions to involve all education and health stakeholders as we prepare for the reopening and we have several committees which are working from the ground,” he said.
The CS said they are working with experts to advise the President on the progress, so that the reopening may not be short-lived as currently being witnessed in various countries, which reopened learning institutions only to close them again.
“The calendar for administering Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations will be informed by the reconfigured learning calendar scheduled to commence in September 2020, subject to mitigation of the coronavirus situation in the country and guidance from the ministry of Health,” Magoha said during a virtual meeting with the Senate Ad hoc Committee on Education.
Senators present during the session, led by the committee chairman Johnson Sakaja, urged the ministry to consider “writing off” the current academic year in light of the disruptions the pandemic has caused.
Kenya National Parents Association (KNPA) chairperson Nicholas Maiyo also weighed in on the matter, saying the re-opening of schools should not be rushed.
He said their proposal is to postpone exams this year and start afresh in January since the coronavirus infections continue to rise.
“No parent would agree to release their children to school given the current situation of the disease.
A survey conducted recently showed that about 70 per cent of parents would not allow their children back to school because we are more interested in their wellbeing,” said Maiyo.
Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KESSHA) chairman Kahi Indimuli said they are ready to follow guidelines issued by the ministry.
Educationist Amos Kaburu said examination should not be a major issue and instead emphasis should be put on the disruption of the school calendar which has delayed coverage of the syllabus.
“The biggest dilemma right now surrounds transition from one grade to another, it is tough across the world and we sympathise with not only our children but also the government during this difficult time as it balances the best possible strategies,” said Kaburu, adding that it would make no economic sense to send children back to school in September, saying the government should push the re-opening to January.
“September is not productive in any way and we should not push it too much, let us accept that schools should resume in January,” he said.