What you need to know:
- The Covid-19 positivity rate has risen to 12 per cent, up from four per cent, a low rate that had informed the partial reopening of schools.
- Education CS George Magoha is expected to give direction on the full reopening of schools this week.
A spike in coronavirus infections has cast doubt on the anticipated full reopening of schools on Monday, with representatives of teachers and parents now urging caution.
Grade 4, Standard Eight and Form Four students have been in school since October 12 and the rest of the learners were expected to be recalled after two weeks, subject to the consistent reduction in the number of infections reported nationwide.
But the plan is in jeopardy because the Ministry of Health is yet to give it green light after the percentage of Covid-19 patients tripled, setting alarm bells ringing in a move that could trigger possible return to lockdown.
The Covid-19 positivity rate has risen to 12 per cent, up from four per cent, a low rate that had informed the partial reopening of schools.
The Health ministry has not approved the plan to allow all learners back to schools and Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe hinted at tightening of containment measures if the current trend is not reversed.
Officials at the Ministry of Education now blame their Health counterparts for lack of guidance on the fate of other learners, even as head teachers and parents’ associations cautioned against rushed reopening in the wake of a surge in infections.
Education CS George Magoha, who had suggested that other learners would be recalled after two weeks of resumption by the three classes, is expected to give direction on the full reopening of schools this week.
“The ministry will observe the situation in one or two weeks, then we recall the other children. We shall recall them when the time is right,” Prof Magoha said last week while monitoring the partial reopening at Olympic Primary in Kibra Constituency.
The Education Taskforce on Covid-19 recommended the partial reopening last week following a positivity rate of below four per cent for 14 days and advice by MoH. Grade 4, Standard 8 and Form 4 were then recalled to schools.
The team made of stakeholders in the education sector then advised that other learners should reopen after two weeks.
It has emerged that members of the team have not met since they last made the recommendations in order to review the situation.
“The information from the Ministry of Health is discouraging,” said a source in the Education ministry.
The chair of the National Parents Association, Nicholas Maiyo, told the Nation that they will petition the government to close schools in case learners get infected.
“We’ve not had a case of Covid-19 in schools so far. Our worry is social distancing when schools are fully opened since we have more than 15 million learners. We are also calling for the supply of high quality and reusable masks. Many parents cannot afford to buy them and most of their children are in boarding schools, where they cannot access shops,” Mr Maiyo said.
Private schools are also unhappy with the uncertainty surrounding the issue. The Kenya Private Schools Association Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndoro said the Health ministry should do more to protect school children.
“We are very disappointed by the manner in which the Health ministry has been passing information on Covid-19. There is need for more awareness now that schools have started reopening,” Mr Ndoro said.
The Kenya Secondary School Heads Association Chairman Kahi Indimuli said school managers are in a dilemma over the reopening.
“We would have wished to have all the students back in school but looking at the Covid-19 figures, we have to ask if it will be advisable to reopen. That is the fear we have. On the other hand, the more we keep them at home, the more difficult it will be to bring them up to speed with syllabus expectations,” Mr Indimuli said. He revealed that teachers had realised huge learning loss among Form Four learners who reported back last week.
Mr Indimuli added that there is need to protect learners from harmful consequences of the long closure.
“The Ministry of Health will have to come out strongly and advise on the way forward now that the positivity rate is going up,” Mr Indimuli added.