Magoha unveils new school calendar amid COVID-19

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 00:00 | By
Education CS George Magoha. Photo/PD/File

By Irene Githinji and Reuben Mwambingu

The government has proposed drastic changes to the school calendar to recover time lost to the coronavirus pandemic even as it insisted that national examinations will be conducted as scheduled.

The drastic measures proposed by the Ministry of Education, are a response to delays in re-opening  schools that could have adverse effects on the completion of syllabus, owing to the pandemic that disrupted learning.

President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered all schools closed from March 15, two days after the government announced Kenya’s first Covid-19 case. Schools are yet to reopen as the number of infected people crossed the 500 mark yesterday.

Outlining the measures his ministry was taking to recover lost time, Education Cabinet secretary George Magoha said the August holiday will be shortened by two weeks to create more school time for learners and teachers.

The ministry has also proposed to extend school days to have longer learning hours with Prof Magoha maintaining that the timelines for national examinations remain unchanged.

In a normal learning situation, official learning hours run from 8am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday.

“The outbreak of coronavirus pandemic led to the closure of schools on March 15, three weeks earlier than scheduled.

The ministry has further extended the reopening for second term effective May 4 and the net effect is the loss of seven weeks of school calendar,” said the minister in a statement to the National Assembly Committee on Education.

Prof Magoha also announced that the ministry had proposed to shorten the second term mid-term by four days to allow more class time.

The CS was expected to appear before the committee yesterday to give a status report on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education and the measures he will be taking to mitigate its effects.

However, the CS said he was unavailable and requested for a sitting tomorrow to respond to any arising questions.

 “I am not available to appear before the National Assembly Committee on Education and Research on April 5 at 10am as I will be attending a Cabinet meeting scheduled to take place at the same time,” said Magoha, in a letter to Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai.

Before the pandemic, the second term was expected to run from May 4 to August 7, covering 14 weeks while the half-term break was scheduled for June 15–19.

The third term was expected to run for nine weeks, from August 31 to October 23, to pave way for national examinations, supposed to be taken between October 26 and November 2.

Emergency response

Already, the ministry has developed a Basic Education Covid-19 emergency response plan, worth Sh20 billion, to mitigate the impact of the disease.

The one-and-half-year emergency response plan from June 1, 2020 to December 2021, provides interventions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on provision of quality education, targeting learners in basic institutions of learning, with a focus on the most vulnerable and pupils from poor backgrounds.

“The response plan provides a guide in the overall readiness and response of the Covid-19 to enable learning to continue and the education system to recover and transit smoothly post the pandemic,” the CS says.

The education sector is host to more than 18 million learners in schools and colleges.

As far as the schedule for national examinations is concerned, the CS told the parliamentary committee that it remains unchanged even as he noted that the ministry continues to monitor the coronavirus situation as it consults with other relevant government agencies before undertaking any further mitigation measures.

So far, 460 education institutions have been designated as isolation or quarantine centres, most of which are secondary schools.

“Discussions with the Ministry of Health resolved that schools will not be used as first line institutions. It is expected that the Ministry of Health will fumigate the buildings before handing them over to the ministry before learning commences,” said Magoha.

A total of 25 universities, polytechnics and technical colleges have been designated as quarantine centres, 36 Kenya Medical Training colleges, 28 Teachers Training colleges and 331 secondary schools.

According to Magoha, the selection of schools followed a criteria that gave priority to boarding facilities and closeness to a treatment facility for coronavirus for ease of management.

On the Competence-Based Curriculum (CBC), Magoha said the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) is preparing for Grade 5 rollout, expected to be ready in time for commencement in January 2021.

 In extending the school holiday by a month, Magoha said the move was in the interest of safety and lives of children.

During this period, Magoha said, interventions to be taken will depend on how the government is able to control the disease.

More on News