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Parents’ jitters over reopening of schools

By People Team
Monday, September 21st, 2020
Education CS Prof George Magoha.
In summary
    • About 300 school going pupils and students in Narok county might miss classes if the government reopens learning institutions before January after undergoing initiation into moranism (community warriors) last month.
    • The initiates who are in various locations in the county were expected to graduate late December in readiness for schools.
    • Their relatives say they decided to have the boys undergo the passage of rite when the government announced in June that schools would reopen in January following a surge in Covid-19 infections.
    • “We decided to initiate them into adulthood instead of them idling until January. If schools are opened before then, they will miss out learning because they have to pass all the processes of becoming the community defenders before they are released.”

Irene Githinji and Noven Owiti

Parents were yesterday up in arms against the planned reopening of schools on October 19 as Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha ordered teachers to report to schools in readiness for the resumption of classes.

National Parents Association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo expressed concerns about the safety of learners once schools re-open, as well as the protocols to be put in place by learning institutions.

“As parents, we are concerned about two things, one is the behaviour of Covid-19, but now that it is below 5 per cent, we may reconsider our position on reopening,” he told People Daily.

“Parents are also concerned about the protocols being put in place to protect our children from the virus, we do not want to be like Tanzania where pupils are not putting on masks or observing social distancing yet there is Corona there,’ said Maiyo.

For some parents planning for an October return to school is a difficult thing as they had not budgeted for it. However, if talk by MPs yesterday is put to action then there could be some reprieve for this lot.

Capitation funds

Speaking in Kajiado County at the weekend, Lugari MP Ayub Savula demanded that the government uses the school capitation funds for the first two terms to fund the running of the learning institutions.

“Waziri wa elimu amesema shule zifunguliwe October. Mimi, Memusi na wajumbe wenzangu hapa tutakaa kule bungeni pesa ya captiation ya first term na second term haikutumika.

Tunataka watoto wasome free hizi term zimebakia, wasituambie wazazi walipe, walipe nini, kama walipeleka pesa ya capitation kwa Corona wakakula, wote wafungwe (The Education CS has said schools will be reopened in October.

Myself, Memusi and other MPs will sit in Parliament and demand that the funds for capitation for first term and second term were not used be spent to run schools, let them not tell us that parents must pay schools fees, why should they pay?

If they diverted the capitation monies to Corona and squandered it, they should be jailed,” said Savula.

Several parents interviewed maintained they were not prepared to pay school fees in October given the ravages of the pandemic, which has rendered thousands jobless.

“I am not prepared, I am very concerned about the safety of my child. And if they insist that school must resume in October, most parents do not have money since there have been financial problems since Covid-19 was announced.

Let the Government announce or have a stand that all schools should resume next January.

This will help give us parents enough time to prepare for schools to be open,” said Geoffrey Onditi, 42.

Another parent, Titus Karisa, 50, shared Onditi’s concerns, saying he had planned for a January reopening date.

“Personally, I am not prepared for the reopening of schools as a parent because the government, through the Ministry of Education, announced earlier that schools will reopen in January 2021 so changing the time of reopening will be a great challenge to most parents both financially and in terms of proper preparation.

The Ministry should have a fix date and month for next year 2021 and not this year. We have faced all sorts of challenges this year,” he stated.

Nancy Mwasau, 31, also stated she was least prepared for the reopening of schools.

“First, I am not prepared either am I ready to take back my children to school this year.

I have serious financial constraints since business has been slow. Secondly my child who is waiting to sit for the national exams will not have enough time to prepare for exams,’ she stated. 

Directing teachers to report to their respective schools ahead of the planned reopening, Magoha said it was necessary for learners to find schools in good shape.

The government closed all schools in March following the outbreak of Covid-19.

Magoha told the teachers to make the schools habitable for learning when they are reopened.

“Let teachers do everything possible to make schools have a good atmosphere for learning.

Children will resume learning as soon as possible,” Magoha directed when he toured Mawego Technical Training Institute in Karachuonyo, Homa Bay county to supervise the economic stimulus project for making desks.

The CS said schools will be opened in phases, adding that a meeting with education stakeholders will be convened this week before the government announces the new reopening date.

Magoha said the curve for Covid-19 is being monitored and that learning will resume in schools once it is flattened.

 “We’re going to receive a report from our technical team on the state of schools regarding Covid-19 prevention. The meeting will deliberate on the school reopening,” he said.

National examinations

According to Magoha, the reopening of schools will begin with national examination classes before it is cascaded to other classes at different levels.

“We’ll start with examination classes. We want the desks project completed before the end of October so that the remaining groups of children come to school to find where to sit when they come to school,” he added.

Last week, the Ministry of Education published tough guidelines that schools will have to adhere to once learning resumes failure to which they will be closed.

Prior to reopening, educational institutions are to develop policies and procedures suitable in their own environment to enable a smooth process.

They are also to provide a budget to institute safe and protective learning environment by putting in place all health protocols required in the fight against Covid-19.

The government has also banned some of the activities like swimming, assemblies and sleeping in schools for pre-primary learners.

A committee appointed by Prof Magoha proposes that the school calendar be revised to allow the year to begin in June instead of the usual January-to-November cycle. The report suggests that the academic calendar be reorganised such that the second term starts in October and ends in November, and the third term starts in January and ends in March.

ECD classes

It therefore means that the first term in the 2021 calendar will start in May or early June, meaning hundreds of thousands of children scheduled to join Early Child Development Education classes will be delayed for half a year.

The committee chaired by Dr Sarah Ruto is considering two main proposals on how to manage the crisis caused by Covid-19 in Kenya’s education sector.

In the first proposal, the stakeholders suggest to have a phased reopening of schools that will see Standard Seven, Standard Eight, Form Three and Form Four students back in class on Monday, October 19.

Grade Four pupils, who are the first cohort of the Competency Based Curriculum, are to report back to school in the first phase.

For primary schools, learners in Pre-Primary One and Two and Grades One to Three, and those in Standard Five and Six will be expected to start reporting to schools on November 2. Secondary school students in Form One and Two will also be expected to report back to school on the same date.

Reports indicate that there is a school of thought that proposes to have Form 4 class alone resume next month and sit for their exams end of January.

Sources stated that deliberations are still being made on whether to have the rest of the classes resume in January including Standard 8 for their second term.

“If only Form 4 resume next month, they will finish end of January and go. Other classes can resume in January and finish third term in July including exams for Standard 8,” said a source within the committee.

There is also still no consensus over when the academic year should begin, with some rooting for September.

“I do not understand why there are issues arising over proposal to have the education calendar start in September yet if we do that we will align the secondary, primary and university calendar and they will be on the same level going forward.”

Should the calendar begin in September, the current Form 4 class will join university as they would have if this year’s calendar was not disrupted.

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