Kipsang: No plans to halt learning for exam classes
The government yesterday reiterated its decision not to close schools following rising Covid-19 infection rates among learners and teachers.
Instead, the State defended its move to re-open schools for Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four students, saying it was informed by the reduced number of infections in September.
Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang yesterday said by the time the decision was taken to re-open schools, the coronavirus positivity rate was below five per cent.
Kipsang was taken to task by members of the National Assembly Health Committee chaired by Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, who maintained that the ministry took the decision to reopen schools in haste and without enough consultations. The session was also attended by Health Cabinet Secretary, Mutahi Kagwe.
Legislators spoke against the backdrop of rising infections in several schools including Bahati Girls in Nakuru, Kolanya Secondary in Busia and Tononoka and Star of the Sea in Mombasa, forcing them to send the affected learners into quarantine or close the schools altogether.
Yesterday, Nakuru County Health Executive Kariuki Gichuki confirmed that Bahati Girls Secondary School students who had tested positive for Covid-19 are stable and under close monitoring.
In total, 68 students, five teachers and two subordinate staff tested positive for the virus.
In Mombasa, learning at Star of the Sea and Tononoka Secondary school which were closed following detection of Covid-19 cases two weeks ago, resumed last week after a two week quarantine.
Legislators questioned the government plan to re-open schools for the rest of the learners in January, warning that there was no guarantee that the disease which is now on its second wave would have been contained.
“No one can predict re-opening of schools. We do not understand why the ministry was in a hurry to re-open which has caused infections we are seeing,” one MP stated.
But Kipsang maintained that the decision to recall examination candidates was guided by the Ministry of Health experts who understand the disease better and was also within World Health Organisation recommendations. “Before we opened schools, we were given the top professional advise.
The team leading us in the Ministry of Education is the Head of infectious diseases at the Ministry so we were given the support at the highest level that was available and we were able to develop together protocols,” said the PS.
“We developed protocols for reopening basic education institutions amid Covid-19 pandemic and was finalised in September while the schools were opened in October.
We used professionals who understood the disease before we resumed,” he added.
The PS appeared to suggest that the learners who have tested positive for the virus in various schools contracted the disease from their “reckless” parents before they reported to the schools.
“We have seen recently and more so when the President opened up the areas of our economy including the bars and gatherings that have been there and we have seen a situation where our children are becoming victims of our indiscipline as adults,” said Kipsang.
“We as adults go out to the bars behave in the way we have seen in the last few days and take the disease to children at home and the children take it to children in school who in turn take it to the disciplined parents,” he added.
He singled out political gatherings as leading in the Covid-19 hotspots with people disregarding safety measures like wearing masks and social distancing.
The PS also said the Ministry of health has come in handy in handling Covid-19 cases in schools and everything is under control.
And separately, Ndhiwa MP Martin Owino who spoke in Homa Bay said the Health committee will have to summon Magoha for allegedly giving false information on government’s preparedness to tackle learning during the covid-19 pandemic.
Owino, who is a member of the committee said his team will summon Magoha to set the records straight on the issues bedeviling face to face learning since schools reopened from the prolonged break occasioned by coronavirus pandemic.
He accused Magoha of dishonesty when he told the committee that the government had put in place proper mechanisms for ensuring that learning in Form Four, class eight and Grade Four class takes place efficiently in a safe and conducive atmosphere.
Such preparations included availability of sanitizers, water points and desks for enabling the pupils to keep social distance.
The arrangements also included disbursement of capitation fees to cushion students from being sent home due to inability of their parents to pay school fees.
“CS Magoha lied to our committee in Parliament that all measures had been put in place yet it has been discovered that there is nothing at all in schools,” Owino said.
The MP blamed the government for failing to timely disburse capitation fees to schools, a situation he said had forced principals to send the children back home for fees.
He argued that the unpreparedness of the Ministry of Education has caused a huge burden on parents.
According to Owino, many parents are currently suffering from financial crisis due to joblessness caused by Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have received an outcry from many parents who are facing financial challenges due to covid-19.
Principals have equally decried lack funds for running schools because the government has not released the capitation fees,” he said.