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Magoha rules out universities, colleges September re-opening

By Mathew Ndungu
Thursday, August 13th, 2020
Education CS George Magoha (right) with MKU Vice Chancellor Prof Stanley Waundo (left) when he visited the institution yesterday. Photo/PD/MATHEW NDUNG’U
In summary

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha yesterday ruled out the possibility of universities and colleges re-opening next month.

Magoha says only a few institutions, both public and private, have satisfactorily achieved the laid-down Covid-19 health protocols.

He said most universities and technical training institutions are yet to finalise expansion of learning facilities to ensure social distancing.

“We are not going to risk our children, especially when the Covid-19 cases are increasingly being recorded.

This decision is however not cast in stone because we can move backward or forward depending on whether we will be able to flatten the curve,” he said.

The Ministry of Education had earlier asked universities to consider a staggered resumption of studies to be able to conform with physical and social distancing requirements, especially in halls of residence, lecture rooms and dining halls, which would have ended months of schools’ closure.

Online classes

Speaking yesterday after inspecting the preparedness of Mount Kenya University (MKU) and Thika Technical Training Institute (TTTI) in Kiambu county, Magoha said higher learning institutions should for now continue offering online classes, exams and graduation ceremonies.

“This is the new normal and as we prepare to have phased re-opening, which we hope will be in January, universities should carry on with their normal business, and I would want to encourage those ones that can admit and orient students online to do so,” he said.

For the institutions, especially the public ones that do not have online learning resources, the CS said the government would give the necessary support to ensure they also become virtually relevant.

He made the remarks even as training institutions and universities continue to race against time to put in place Covid-19 safety measures for re-opening.

Some institutions such as MKU have since the closure of face-to-face learning migrated their regular students to the electronic learning platform.

The university, alongside TTTI have also established Covid-19 surveillance and emergency response teams that will liaise with the sub-county response committees in prevention efforts.

In preparation for re-opening, MKU’s Vice Chancellor Prof Stanley Waundo and the technical school Principal Sammy Cheruiyot said their institutions have set out policies to avert transmission of the virus both by the students and teaching staff.

Among the policies are that everyone accessing their premises must wear a face mask properly, steady supply of soap and water and/or hand sanitiser at convenient places and frequent cleaning of premises, especially surfaces that people touch often such as counters and door handles.

Set policies

At the same time, Magoha dismissed as impossible a proposal by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu to have candidates who were scheduled to sit their exams this year continue.

In his argument, Wambugu claims that scrapping an entire academic year would stall all the classes in the system, affect the existing age-based education system and interfere with the rites of passage.

“No one else; no other sector has scrapped its operations for a year. We are going about our normal business; going to work, going to social places, using Public Service Vehicles and going to church.

But we want our children, who we find at home after going about our normal business, to stop their lives for a whole year.

What are we teaching these children?” he questioned in a Facebook post.

But Magoha insisted that no public school was prepared enough to accommodate all its candidates and that allowing candidates to sit exams is tantamount to giving spread of the virus a leeway.

“As far as public schools are concerned, even the examination classes alone cannot fit the candidates. There is not enough social distancing to make this happen,” he said.

He said that only the virus behaviour would determine whether or not learning would be back to normal.

He said that he had consulted all education stakeholders including the Parents Association, who have vowed not to allow their children to school even if the government re-opens.

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