Parents to bear cost of schools’ reopening soon

Thursday, September 17th, 2020 10:00 | By
Pupils in class. Photo/Courtesy

The government has finally released guidelines for reopening schools which could see parents forced to dig deeper into their pockets to meet costs of coronavirus containment measures.

Already, the Ministry of Education has instructed principals and headteachers to urgently convene Board of Management (BOM) meetings to deliberate and agree on how to look for funds to implement the guidelines, which is a clear indication that parents should brace themselves for a fees hike shocker.

On Monday, the ministry, through the County Directors of Education, began a series of sensitisation workshops for principals and headteachers as it races against time to reopen learning institutions. 

President Uhuru Kenyatta is on September 26 expected to address the nation on the state of the Covid-19 pandemic and progress on containment measures, and insiders say reopening of schools is high on the agenda.

The Education ministry has pegged the reopening of individual schools to four minimum requirements: Availability of masks, constant running water, adequate space for social distancing and availability of functional toilets.

Apparently, the government is toying with two proposals: The first is to allow KCPE and KCSE candidates to resume classes next month, or let all learners return to school at the same time.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Health and Education counterparts, Mutahi Prof George Magoha and Mutahi Kagwe, are scheduled to chair a stakeholders’ meeting next week to give specific proposed dates for reopening.

“The government is currently exploring all options available to ensure the resumption of learning in our schools.

We can no longer afford to waste more time,” said Kahi Indimuli, the chairman of the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (KSSHA).

Indimuli urged the government to expedite disbursement of funds for the Free Primary Education (FPE) and Free Secondary Education (FSE) programmes.

While the government has set aside Sh1.9 billion to produce and distribute 622,367 locally assembled desks to 15 public schools in each of the sub-counties under the Economic Stimulus Programme, it has left the onus on provision of masks, running water, thermo-guns and other essential equipment to parents.

Minimum requirement

Already, the Education ministry has advised headteachers to consider procuring locally assembled reusable masks from firms such as Rivatex and Kitui Textile Industry at a cost of Sh35 per piece. The reusable masks can be worn for six months. 

The National Youth Service has also been tasked to produce masks worth Sh1 billion to be used by students and teachers.

School boards are expected to explore ways to source funds to procure water tanks and construction of boreholes, purchase of thermo-guns, aprons for non-teaching staff, extra beds, tents, soap and sanitisers. Apparently, a thermo-gun costs at least Sh3,000.

On washrooms, it is recommended that a maximum of 25 girls should use one toilet, while 30 boys can use a similar facility.

The student population in a school will determine the number of tents to be purchased by the institution in order to ensure adequate space for learners.

“The ministry has instructed headteachers to convene BOMs to discuss and approve the amount of money parents should raise to meet the extra costs.

Schools whose budgets do not secure the approval of their BOMs will be considered to have failed to meet the minimum requirements to reopen,” said one county director of education.

Yesterday, Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang’ said the government was yet to reach a final decision on funding for reopening of schools. 

“Yes, it is going to be quite expensive, but it is a process that will have to involve all the stakeholders before a final decision is made.

I can’t say what the schools, parents and the national government will cater for at the moment,” Dr Kipsang’ said.

A proposal from the ministry also indicates that the government is mulling reopening schools either in phases or in total by mid next month.

One of the scenarios is to prioritise KCPE and KCSE candidates who could resume their studies by mid next month and have them complete the syllabus by early next year.

In this case, the candidates could sit their national examinations between February and March 2021.

“The government can use the candidates to determine the success and failures in the implementation of the Covid-19 containment measures,” said Akelo Misori, the secretary general of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (Kuppet).

Learners attending classes in shifts, is also an option on the table, with one group being taught in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

Student populations

If that is not possible, the ministry is considering having some students attending classes for one week or a month uninterrupted, before the other group reports for the next week or month.

The last option is to have various classes spread across two or three days of the week, with each class being allocated a specific day of the week.

Under this arrangement, the first group of learners comprising candidates and fourth grade primary learners will attend classes between Monday and Wednesday, while the second lot will report on Thursdays and Fridays.

Teachers will also not be left out as the government has recommended that they should be divided into two groups in schools with big student populations.

This would mean separating science teachers from their arts colleagues in a bid to reduce congestion in staffrooms.

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