Education ministry issues guidelines as schools reopen

Students walk in the rain.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Last week, the government postponed the opening of schools for the second term from April 29 to May due to the floods.

Parents and school management will be responsible for the safety of learners when schools reopen for the second term on Monday, Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu has said.

Families displaced by floods and currently staying in learning institutions will also be moved to alternative accommodation in preparation for the reopening in two days' time. The CS postponed the opening by a week on Monday this week, citing security concerns caused by heavy rains and flooding in many parts of the country. 

The announcement took parents and teachers by surprise, coming late at night when some students in boarding schools far from their homes were already on their way to school.

"The prevailing weather conditions pose accessibility challenges due to flash floods, swollen rivers and landslides, thus affecting the transport system for students to and from school. Parents are therefore urged to ensure that their children get to school safely and on time," reads a circular from Mr Machogu to all regional, county and sub-county education directors.

Mr Machogu said the rains had a devastating effect on schools, including damaging some infrastructure, submerging buildings and sanitation facilities, and destroying learning and teaching materials. The floods are estimated to have killed at least 200 people and displaced more than 130,000 others.

While supporting the decision to reopen schools, the president of the National Parents Association, Silas Obuhatsa, urged caution.

"Before then, parents should visit schools accompanied by the Board of Management (BoM) and heads of institutions to assess and confirm that they are safe to open on Monday. If their assessment is that conditions are not conducive for reopening, learners should stay at home until it's safe," he said.

However, Mr Machogu said the ministry had put in place measures to ensure the safety of learners and staff working in basic education institutions. He directed field education officers working in areas where schools are hosting displaced persons to liaise with local national government administration officers to immediately identify alternative accommodation for displaced persons to ensure that facilities are available for normal learning activities.

Field Education Officers have also been instructed to develop mitigation measures to ensure that learning is not disrupted in facilities damaged by the devastating floods.

The rains have caused flooding in some institutions, damaging critical infrastructure, including sanitation facilities, and further destroying learning and teaching materials. The CS said schools affected by the floods will have to share resources with neighbouring schools.

He said sanitation facilities in some schools have been damaged, with some either submerged or completely collapsed, posing a health risk due to contamination of water sources, which could lead to an outbreak of water-borne diseases.

He directed the BoMs to convene meetings and submit reports to the CEB on the status of their respective schools.

"These reports should detail the damage caused by the adverse conditions and outline mitigation measures to ensure a conducive learning environment. These reports should be submitted by May 8, 2024," said Mr Machogu.

The County Education Boards (CEBs) were also directed to convene meetings to assess the situation and submit comprehensive reports to Jogoo House by May 10, 2024.

"The Regional Directors of Education are to provide continuous updates on the status of learning institutions in their areas of jurisdiction using a template that includes safe opening of schools and capture data on learners who are not in schools," the CS said.

Heads of institutions are also required to report on the number of learners who are out of school due to inaccessibility of the transport system, the number of learners who are out of school due to the impact of the weather conditions on their family's livelihood, and the number of learners whose families have been internally displaced (IDPs) due to the prolonged heavy rains.

"All heads of institutions, field education officers, parents and stakeholders are urged to prioritise the safety and well-being of learners, teachers and the school community, guided by the weather forecast reports issued from time to time by the Meteorological Department," said Mr Machogu.