What you need to know:
- In the eyes of school children who sit on rejected quarry stones in squalid classrooms, these desks are a welcome upgrade.
- If you aren’t happy for these children, you should be sad for Corona because the Ministry of Health is almost hammering it into submission.
This week the Ministry of Education announced they had set aside Sh1.9 billion towards the purchase of new school desks before the planned reopening of schools. This news is welcome relief for school children who have been treated to plastic declarations instead of concrete plans.
Before this, the Education Minister, Prof. George Magoha, had been issuing conflicting statements that kept Kenyan parents in a state of panic.
No wonder Kenyans have been asking why there has been a marked reduction in the number of those with Covid symptoms even as the Education CS has been raising the temperatures of Kenyan parents.
It is heartwarming to see the government finally setting aside money for school infrastructure improvement.
Experts have been telling us the country is currently choking in debt borrowed from unforgiving friends. If we don’t set aside a big chunk of our budget for debt repayment, international debt collectors would arrive at JKIA and put Kenya on auction.
Sh1.9 billion might look like small money, but in the eyes of school children who sit on rejected quarry stones in squalid classrooms, these desks are a welcome upgrade. After this project is complete, school uniforms will part ways with wear and tear.
If you aren’t happy for these children, you should be sad for Corona because the Ministry of Health is almost hammering it into submission.
Although we are united in encouraging Prof. Magoha to keep to this climbing lane, there are several loopholes in this school desks proclamation.
First is that the public is yet to see the refreshing design of these Covid compliant desks. Parents are crucial education stakeholders; the government cannot afford to leave them out of decision making, however broke they are.
The Constitution we are now fighting to change entrenched public participation at the heart of government policy-making. It requires parents to be actively involved in decisions affecting their children – after all, the children are theirs, even though the Education CS calls them his.
Parents weren’t consulted on what priority areas the Ministry should focus on, how the new desks should look, and whether we should kill precious trees for this new project or give life to companies recycling dead ones.
You can’t have Covid compliant desks without improving the physical infrastructure of classrooms. If desks must observe social distancing to prevent Corona particles from using them for triple jump practice, it goes without saying there would be need for the police to go beat classroom walls to comply with Ministry of Health guidelines.
Already, Free Primary Education (FPE) has converted our public schools into academic slums. Classrooms are crammed; children are forced to recycle breathing air. Teachers mark few scripts and send slow learners to enlist the help of their parent, who would rather get tortured in Nyayo House than revisit algebraic formula.
If new classroom blocks aren’t constructed, or old ones extended, then the government might as well have started playing games with our children’s health before the official flagging off of Term One games next year.
Then there is the small matter of carpenters who receive the tender to construct these desks. We are used to big-time power barons fencing off government tenders for themselves. This time, small players have been informed it is their turn to eat, but they must come with papyrus plates and sisal mugs before they are accepted into the kitchen queue.
If the Ministry wanted to place bottlenecks in the way of local carpenters, why hide behind school desks when we all know where bottles are made?