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Sossion, Uasu call for rescheduling of academic calendar

By Bernard Gitau
Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion addresses the press during the launch of a report on mitigation measures and recommendations on reopening of learning institutions, on Wednesday. Photo/PD/SAMUEL KARIUKI

Bernard Gitau @benagitau

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) have recommended the rescheduling of the education calendar and postponement of national exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In a detailed multi-agency report on effects of Covid-19 on education, the unions have strongly opposed the partial or full re-opening of learning institutions before the virus curve is flattened.

“Parents are not ready to release their learners before their safety is guaranteed and the Covid-19 curve flattened,” said Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion at a joint press conference with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHCR), the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Forum for African Women Educationalists-Kenya (Fawe) and Elimu Tuitakayo. 

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Sossion, Uasu secretary general Constantine Wasonga and KHRC executive director George Kegoro led the joint media briefing.

“Education calendar will never be the same again and must be reorganised. National examinations are not tenable and should be pushed to the first quarter of 2021,” said Sossion.

The union boss warned that any rushed decision on re-opening of schools could put children in harm’s way.

“Partial reopening for candidates in primary and secondary schools by June will be dangerous because with peak months established, it will expose teachers and learners to the virus and other diseases,” Sossion said.

He accused the government of excluding important players in the sector from the Education Ministry Covid-19 Response Committee, terming it non-inclusive.

“The committee is engaging in a sham process that excludes major teachers unions, medical experts and civil society; it’s high time (Education) CS Magoha expanded it for inclusivity and offer objective views,” said Sossion (pictured, above).

With medical experts projecting the peak season to be August or September, reopening of schools will be a tall order. Dr Patrick Amoth, the acting Director General of Health, has said the country will likely record up to 200 cases a day during the peak months. 

Boaz Karuku, the Programme Manager of Africa Network Campaign on Education for All, says any decision to reopen schools should follow Unesco guidelines for schools and the best interests of the child and overall public health considerations.

With some schools being used as quarantine centres, the organisations want a solid plan on occupational safety and health assessment by safety consultants from the directorate of occupational safety and health.

They also want a periodic risk assessment of teachers based on the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

On the fate of teachers both in private and public institutions, Sossion said the employers should not terminate or reduce their salaries.