Task force: All learners should be in school by November 2

Parents and students shop in Nyeri on October 10, 2020 ahead of schools reopening.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Parents have been anxious about the reporting timelines for the learners after the minister allowed Grade 4, Standard 8 and Form 4 learners to report back tomorrow.
  • Some may have to study in tents or under trees as they endeavour to observe the social distance rules.

All primary and secondary school learners could be in class by November 2 if the Ministry of Education implements the recommendations of the Education Task Force on Covid-19.

The team recommended that learners who are not reporting back to school tomorrow in the phased reopening plan return on October 26.

The task force proposed that they be allowed back in school two weeks after the final year candidates report.

It was on the recommendations of the team that teachers were ordered back to schools earlier to prepare for the safe return of the learners in the examination classes.

Going by the proposals, learners in pre-primary One and Two, grades One to Three, classes Five to Seven as well as those in forms One to Three are to report from October 26. And given that Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has issued a revised school calendar, the latest date the other learners are expected to be in school is November 2.

By the time they report, schools are expected to have received 622,357 lockers and chairs promised by the government under the economic stimulus package.

Prof Magoha has directed regional and county directors of education to ensure the desks and lockers are supplied to schools by October 19.

School calendar

Parents have been anxious about the reporting timelines for the learners after the minister allowed Grade 4, Standard 8 and Form 4 learners to report back tomorrow.

Prof Magoha announced that the school calendar will run from October 12 to December 23 for the second term, which will comprise 11 weeks. The learners will take a one-week break in December before starting the third term on January 4, running to March 19 – another 11 weeks.

Standard Eight candidates will sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary School Education (KCPE) exams on March 22-24 while the Form Fours will take the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) from March 25 to April 16.

Prof Magoha said marking of examinations will be between April 19 and May 7. The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education have been calling on the ministry to release the full school calendar to parents.

Prof Magoha is expected to announce the reporting dates for the other learners this coming week.

Lost time

Yesterday, Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion said the task force proposed a crash programme that will see learners recover the lost time.

“With the new proposals, the education system in Kenya will normalise by end of December 2021,” he told the Sunday Nation.

“The reopening of schools shows that as a country we are headed in the right direction, any further delays might cause a drop in enrolment in schools,” he said.

Kuppet’s spokesman Akelo Misori said the reopening of schools should be taken positively by all.

“We urge parents, sponsors and well-wishers to provide all the necessary support to the students so that learning can resume without any hitches,” he said.

Kenya Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said parents are ready to take their children to school.

Yesterday, parents and learners flocked to bookshops and uniform outlets in readiness for school.

Parents have been worried about the “lost year”but now there is hope that when the learners report back next May, they will move to the next class. The school calendar has been programmed to ensure that the 2021 academic year ends in December. The 2021 Form One students are expected to join secondary school in June.

The new calendar is also expected to ensure that the universities’ September intake is not affected.

But amid the high hopes, there is uncertainty among some. It is a mixed bag for the school communities where some have implemented the requisite protocols set by the ministries of Education and Health while others grapple with logistical and organisational nightmares.

Some students will arrive to collapsed or dilapidated buildings reeling from the vagaries of weather elements, textbooks and desks devoured by ants and sunken toilet blocks. Others in the flood-prone regions of the Rift, Western and Nyanza have no schools to return to, thanks to flooding.

Social distance rules

Some may have to study in tents or under trees as they endeavour to observe the social distance rules.

In other areas, students will be forced to look for alternative schools due to inaccessibility.

In Baringo and Kisumu counties, at least 19 schools are flooded and learners will have nowhere to take their lessons. In Baringo, 11 schools have been submerged by the rising Lake Baringo while in Ahero, Kisumu County, eight schools are submerged.

In Budalang’i, Busia County, over 850 families were displaced from their homes and forced to live in Bubango Primary School since April after their houses were destroyed by floods.

In Kirinyaga County, the manager of Mwea Brethren Primary School, a private school, has announced that the pupils who turn up tomorrow will have to share space with chickens, after he turned the classrooms into chicken coops when the schools were ordered shut in March to make ends meet.

Schools in pastoralist areas in the northern and coastal regions may also register small numbers of returnees as the students relocated with their animals in search of pasture and water.

Some 196 private primary and secondary schools have notified parents that they will not open.

Yesterday, Nairobi regional director of education Jared Obiero, in a circular to all sub-county directors of education, directed them to make arrangements for placement of affected learners to the nearby public schools.

“As we prepare for the reopening of our schools, you are required to liaise with the proprietors of such schools and obtain the list of their candidates for placement in the neighbouring public primary and secondary schools in consultation with the parent,” said Mr Obiero.

The sub-county directors are also to work with Kenya National Examination Council on the change of examination centres. Educationists and health practitioners want the government to deploy nurses to all public boarding schools.

Several ill students have died in schools in the past one year, with the latest being a Form One learner at Sing’ore Girls’ High School in Elgeyo Marakwet County. The deaths shone the spotlight on the ill-equipped nature of school sanatoriums, some run by unqualified personnel, dispensing painkillers for every ailment, and antacids.

Despite being the home of thousands of learners for most part of the year, most institutions can hardly attend to emergency cases while others contend with makeshift structures with improper referral systems.

Mr Ben Orwasa, the Teachers Service Commission director for Turkana south sub county, Kuppet executive secretary for Kisumu County Zablon Awange, Mr Tom Byegon, an education expert in the South Rift and Track One Learners Alliance Protection Organisation leader Innocent Masara want the ministries of Health and Education to urgently liaise with schools and ensure compliance with health standards.

“There is need to establish a dispensary, fully equipped pharmacy with a nurse and clinical officer in every school to mitigate the deaths even as well as fully operationalise National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) cover for students,” said Mr Orwasa.

Medical education

Kenya National Union of Nurses spokesman Seth Panyako said that the government should employ nurses in a recommended ratio to the number of students as well as have a doctor on call.

“I have always wanted healthcare system in schools and colleges put under the Nursing Council of Kenya or Ministry of Health so that nurses are posted directly to schools,” said Mr Panyako. “We don’t know the level of education of those currently treating our children. Do they undertake continuous medical education or even understand the operational practices in the sector?”

Mr Awange says boarding schools are required to employ a qualified nurse and have essential drugs for first line of treatment. “They are required to have and keep each students medical record as filled in medical sheet of the admission form. Further the students are covered by NHIF in latest government policy.  Hence school deaths as witnessed in Kisumu Girls last year and in Sing’ore Girls’ recently are unfortunate and unacceptable,” said Mr Awange.

Mr Byegon also recommended that the digital National Education Management Information System be enhanced to capture each student’s medical records and made easily available to the school medical officer for efficiency.

Mr Masara noted the situation has been worsened by the congestion brought about by the 100 per cent transition of students from primary schools, which affects individualised student attention. The team called for a thorough inspection of boarding facilities and measures put in place to ensure free education does not become a death trap.

“The government should ensure an efficient referral system, complete with a school ambulance or van,” said Mr Orwasa.

Additional reporting by Anita Chepkoech.