Guarantee safety after abrupt schools’ closure

The sudden closure of schools ahead of the August 9 General Election is certainly well-intended, but it has caught teachers, parents, and the students themselves by surprise. Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha’s abrupt announcement is, indeed, astounding.

From today, schools will be closed for a week as the country gets ready for the polls. This presents an urgent challenge for parents of learners in boarding schools, who have had to make quick travel arrangements for them.

Many have been caught flat-footed. This is particularly so, as schools had been scheduled to go on a one-week half-term break from Friday.  Though CS says the decision was reached following consultations, but the key stakeholders, who are the students, their teachers and parents, were not involved, and have literally been ambushed.

Also of concern is the reopening date, August 11, just two days after the vote. There will be a lot of tension and uncertainty across the country until the presidential votes are tallied and announced. It’s only natural that many parents will be reluctant to let their children return to school that soon.

Having a bit more time would have made sense. This closure is yet another disruption to an already tight academic calendar, one of the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The biggest challenge is the presidential vote, with opinion polls showing the top candidates scoring below 50 per cent of vote, and hence the possibility of a runoff.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has seven days from August 9 to announce the results. Only the top two candidates will go into the repeat poll, within 30 days, further disrupting the school calendar.

Even if it will be peaceful, the after-election excitement could cause confusion even in public transport. This is hardly the kind of environment the young boys and girls should be thrown into by being required to immediately go back to their schools.

It would be prudent to have the learners stay home for a few more days for the post-election situation to stabilise and normal life to resume before they return to their institutions.

Learners’ safety must be guaranteed.

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