What you need to know:
- Schools do not have enough classrooms, dining halls, dormitories, laboratories and other infrastructure; hence, there will be overcrowding.
- The e-Learning platforms must be approved and regulated by the Teachers Service Commission and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development.
The government has released a basic education calendar for next year that seeks to recoup the learning time lost during the Covid-19 pandemic-instigated school holiday.
This is a great innovation but it does not addresses serious issues our education sector faces, which will make schools coronavirus super spreaders.
First, schools do not have enough classrooms, dining halls, dormitories, laboratories and other infrastructure; hence, there will be overcrowding.
This can be resolved if the number of learners that can be accommodated with social distancing is known early and a blended teaching programme launched. Some learners can be taught online while others attend physical classes staggered over specific days and times.
This calls for provision of adequate internet-enabled devices, virtual teacher support programmes and full implementation of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act 2018 to ensure safe virtual teaching and learning.
The e-Learning platforms must be approved and regulated by the Teachers Service Commission and Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. Secondly, some schools are located in Covid-19 hotspots. There is a need to develop a virus monitoring virtual map that gives the probability of coming into contact with a Covid-19 patient in an area, so that educationists can make informed decisions. The map will also help the government to equip more healthcare facilities.
Such maps have been installed in smartphones in the US and Europe to help school administrators, parents and local governments to make informed decisions on school learning amid coronavirus infections. Importantly, teachers will be more affected, as demonstrated in the current school situation.
School children are more likely to be carriers of the virus and show subclinical symptoms. Aged teachers and those with underlying medical conditions should be encouraged to use virtual teaching techniques both in school or work at home but with clear monitoring and supervisory mechanisms to curb abuse.
Public mixed day schools are more in number than boarding schools, hence a higher risk of importing Covid-19 into schools by day scholars.
There is need for intermittent diagnosis of Covid-19-like symptoms using thermoguns, for the temperature, and vocalguns, which measure changes in voice occasioned by respiratory inflictions. The government must provide incentives for expansion of the private school sector with regulated fees to decongest public schools.
The enrollment of public university students in private institutions can be replicated in basic education so that the government pays fees for public school learners in private schools.
Dr P. M. Mutua, immunologist, Makueni