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Magoha rules out possibility of schools reopening in September

By Irene Githinji
Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
Education Minister George Magoha addresses the press yesterday at the Kenya Technical Trainers College where he met principals of TVETs to discuss re-opening plans and the post-Corona strategy at the college. Photo/PD/JOHN OCHIENG
In summary
    • CS insisted that the re-opening will depend on the status of coronavirus disease, amid growing concern that the numbers are rising significantly.
    • The disease is still increasing and bottom line is that we will not open until the disease has stopped increasing and stabilized for 14 days.
    • Biggest challenge for schools is physical distancing, Magoha said the Ministry of health has advised that classrooms, which hold over 40 students, be decongested to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Education CS, Prof George Magoha yesterday ruled out the possibility of schools reopening in September.

He insisted that the re-opening will depend on the status of coronavirus disease, amid growing concern that the numbers are rising significantly.

The CS maintained that schools will not reopen until such a time that the numbers will be stabilised for at least 14 days.

“The elephant in the room is the situation of physical distancing but we are getting ‘solace’ from the fact that the disease is still increasing and bottom line is that we will not open until the disease has stopped increasing and stabilized for 14 days,” said Magoha, who made remarks from Kenya Technical Trainers College (KTTC) in Nairobi.

“When it does that (stabilises), the health experts and our Ministry will assess and report to the President the risks we are likely to take.

For now, I do not think the President will be happy to open schools when we are still spiking.

I am not speaking for him but the way I know him, he loves our children and to him even one child’s death that is avoidable is not what we are going to deal with.”

Magoha said that Secondary Quality Improvement Project (SEQIP) funds of about Sh8.2 billion from the World Bank will go a long way in addressing the infrastructure challenge.

He said the ministry is opening tenders for the programme this week adding the process will be accelerated towards improving infrastructure in about 30 counties.

Most of the funds will go towards constructing toilets, laboratories and classrooms to allow for physical distancing.

Admitting that the biggest challenge for schools is physical distancing, Magoha said the Ministry of health has advised that classrooms, which hold over 40 students, be decongested to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have been advised by the ministry of health that a class should have between 15 and 20 students.

You all know this is going to be a big challenge because schools do not have sufficient learning facilities,” he said last week.

He said the government is looking at ways it can leverage in whatever manner to facilitate schools’ reopening, for instance in dealing with the issue of masks.

Saying that all children must have masks, Magoha said the Ministry has created friendly ones and three different prices quoted by different agencies will be presented to Cabinet scheduled for today.

“The government is not sitting down and waiting … we are doing everything possible to ensure should the situation of reopening arise, whether it is only the candidates who should open or its for everyone, we will be ready in the best capacity that we can,” added the CS.

Adding: “In my practice in medicine for over 41 years, I have never seen a virus as this one  so it is new and we do not know how it behaves…”

 He said the Government has mapped out the water situation in all schools and that is not a major concern because heavy investments had been made on water facilities.

In terms of sanitizers, the CS said they are discussing with the Ministry of Health as to what best to buy and what quality. For temperature monitoring, Magoha said learning institutions will be expected to have several gadgets.

The CS yesterday met with TVET Principals from Nairobi, Eastern Central and North Eastern as part of stakeholder engagement in assessing the state of their readiness towards the possibility of reopening in September.

“We are assessing the state of readiness of Tvet institutions with regards to possible opening of institutions in September but what is constant is the health protocols like adequate water, which is now not a big problem,” noted Magoha.

And as the Ministry explores reopening strategies, Magoha said focus has been made to disengage those institutions that have been holding coronavirus patients.

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