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Magoha must resist rushed re-opening of schools

By Gathu Kaara
Monday, August 31st, 2020
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In summary

The recent clamour to re-open schools in Kenya has reached a crescendo. Education Cabinet Secretary, Prof George Magoha, has complained that he is under increasing pressure to re-open schools by what he termed powerful forces who care nothing for the lives of students.

He sounded particularly incensed with the antics of the WHO of exerting undue pressure on schools to reopen in Africa, and Unicef’s purported “concern’ over the rights of children at home.

Others have even accused him of failing to give “clear guidelines” on reopening of schools, claiming the human rights of children are being violated by their staying at home. Please!

Magoha must not buckle under increasing pressures. Kenyans must reject any rushed reopening of schools.

Until now, Magoha has been steadfast and very clear in his mind, that until the numbers go down and the medical experts advise so, schools will remain closed.

His all encompassing education stakeholder group has been in complete agreement.

So far, and the country was warned of this by none other than the Director General of Health, Dr Patrick Amoth, last week, Kenya is not out of the woods yet. 

So why would WHO and Unicef be pushing for such dangerous reopening? This is the same WHO that has for the last six months issued so many contradictory “guidelines,” that countries have lost faith in it.

And even assuming the Covid-19 situation became conducive to reopening, a lot of work remains to be done at the school level.

Schools must be prepared to accept students in an environment that is fully compliant with Ministry of Health protocols.

Classes have to be prepared for social distancing, masks have to be acquired for students and staff respectively, and washing points with soap have to be established in all schools, as well as inspections by health officials. All this will take time.

As Magoha has repeatedly emphasised, children are at home, and they are safe. He has also stated that dead children cannot do exams. There have hardly been any deaths of school children from Covid-19 so far. Kenya should keep it that way.

What is the rush? Kenya will not be the first country that rushed to reopening, and paid the price.

All over the world, from Israel to Australia, from China to Japan to Singapore, countries that had actually flattened the curve and went back to their ‘normal’ ways have been forced to revert back to stringent restrictions and shutting down the economy again, after there was a spike in cases. This is being referred to as the second wave.

US universities are reporting a spike in Covid-19 cases in campuses after reopening, and some state governors are considering closing them down again.

 Can Kenya afford a nationwide spike in cases driven by students going back to school, especially given the state of unpreparedness in the counties? Kenya must not dice with danger.

Make no mistake, until the world is declared Covid-19 free, all countries will have to keep containment measures and health protocols in place, however long it takes.

Current trends show that Kenya is well on its way to flattening, even crushing, the Covid-19 infection curve in the next few months.

The Government and Kenyans should work hard to ensure this is achieved by the date set by the ministry of January 2021 for reopening of schools.

Parents have already attuned themselves to this date. This gives the government sufficient leeway to work to ensure schools are adequately prepared for reopening.

Parents also need the time to look for the fees and the other expenses that will be attendant in the new environment of operating under Covid-19 restrictions. 

All these busybodies piling pressure for reopening of schools should give Prof Magoha a break. He has done a sterling job so far.

He must not allow himself to be swayed by selfish, vested interests driven purely by their greed, or other even more malevolent agendas.

He should stick to the dates he gave, and the dynamics that informed them. - [email protected]

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