Rushed school calendar will only end in premium tears

A class teacher distributes ties to her pupils at Star of the Sea Primary School in Mombasa after schools reopened on October 12, 2020.

Photo credit: Laban Walloga | Nation

What you need to know:

  • The ministry expects learners to report to school earlier than usual every day and leave later than expected, with the possibility of classes on Saturdays to “recover lost time”.
  • The media have in the past reported cases of freezing and sleepy children reporting to school as early as 5.30am in the name of tight school programmes.

After months of covering the school reopening debate with a thick curtain of opacity and ambiguity, the Ministry of Education lifted it to reveal a problematic raft of instructions on how to make up for the seven months lost to Covid-19.

The ministry expects learners to report to school earlier than usual every day and leave later than expected, with the possibility of classes on Saturdays to “recover lost time”. Additionally, they will only have a one-week break in December.

The idea of “recovering lost time” itself is preposterous and unnatural, unless the ministry plans to procure time machines.

The media have in the past reported cases of freezing and sleepy children reporting to school as early as 5.30am in the name of tight school programmes. What will it look like now that schools have been ordered to run a crash programme?

Enough time to play

The bleak reality is that the crash programme will probably crush our children. They will not get enough time to play or sleep, and this might retard their development.

The ministry and the Teachers Service Commission asked teachers to be “innovative” in ensuring the syllabus is covered. This is where we pause and ask if we need to prepare a lesson on the meaning of “innovative”.

Innovation does not mean asking teachers to turn back the hands of time or to devote all of it to teaching. They have their own lives, but this pressure to complete the syllabus may make it impossible to live it.

The Competency-Based Curriculum already demands so much of teachers, learners and parents that one shudders to imagine how they will cope with the mental and physical strain that awaits them.

National exams

One of the motivations for the push to recover lost time is the looming national exams. The tests are so sanctified that schools and parents have no qualms sacrificing the learners’ mental and physical wellbeing – whether knowingly or unknowingly – to earn the “flying colours” badge.

The Education Task Force Committee on Covid-19 felt that if the calendar was not crashed, many learners would outgrow their school-going years. Someone should tell the task force that education can wait, but health and wellbeing can’t.

Another worrying fact is that most schools are not ready for learners. During the lock-down, some schools were converted into dairy and chicken farms, among other ventures, according to media reports. Some private schools have not reopened as they lost their teachers.

Experts have already warned that the country is going to see a new spike in Covid-19 infections, as most have already dropped their guard. We are standing on the precipice of the second wave of the pandemic. We might be sending our children straight into the mouth of a monster.

foneya@ke.nationmedia.com; @FaithOneya