Reopening leaves broke parents with bitter taste

Shama academy’s Noel Wangari, 10, is helped into her uniform by her mother Joyce Mathenge at their home in  Skuta on October 11, 2020. She is among the Grade Four pupils who will be reopening today. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • From the gate to the classrooms, to toilets, dormitories and everywhere else within learning centres, school life has been turned on its head.
  • In Baringo County, the fate of more than 4,000 learners from 15 schools is uncertain after their classrooms were submerged when Lake Baringo and Bogoria broke their banks.

A whole new world awaits learners in schools as phased reopening begins this morning after a seven-month closure.  

More than 1.6 million Grade Four pupils, 1.2 million Standard Eight and 700,000 Form Four candidates are resuming in-person classes amid parents’ worries over their safety as many struggle to raise fees and buy learning materials.

As expected, some education centres will remain shut after they went under or their infrastructure was destroyed, and their children are likely continue staying at home as parents seek alternatives.

But for those lucky to resume studies, school will never be the same again as learning institutions implement a raft of Covid-19 safety measures.

From the gate to the classrooms, to toilets, dormitories and everywhere else within learning centres, school life has been turned on its head.

Schools are required to provide clean running water at the entrance and common places while learners be required to wash their hands before entering the school gate, wear face masks and undergo temperature checks.

Staggered eating

“Staggered eating shifts by classes will be considered where population is high to avoid crowding in the dining hall. Where possible, lunches and afternoon snacks will take place within each class,” the rules released by Basic Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang in September say.

Learners who may exhibit any symptoms related to Covid-19 will be isolated and managed within schools as they await evacuation.

To make sure all learners resume studies, the government has mobilised chiefs and their assistants to ensure total compliance with the schedule.

The administrators will use village elders and Nyumba Kumi members to identify learners who fail to report back to school and ensure that they do so.

They have also been instructed to collect data on school girls who might have become pregnant during the pandemic period and see to it that they resume classes.

But even as the schools reopen, the fate of thousands of learners hangs in balance after their schools failed to reopen.

In Baringo County, the fate of more than 4,000 learners from 15 schools is uncertain after their classrooms were submerged when Lake Baringo and Bogoria broke their banks.

The schools affected include Salabani Secondary School, Ng’ambo Girls’ Secondary, Lake Bogoria Girls’ High School, Ng’ambo, Sintaan, Leswa, Lorok, Loruk Loropil, Noosukro, Kiserian, Sokotei and Salabani primary schools.

Private schools

Baringo South Sub-County Education Director George Okeyo acknowledged that floods have adversely affected education, adding that more than 60 teachers who work in six schools that are completely submerged may not report for work.

In Elgeyo Marakwet County, owners of private schools said they were not ready to admit learners. Through their chairperson Christopher Cheboiboch, the proprietors said they do not have the capacity to accommodate learners in full adherence to Covid-19 measures.

In Nyanza and Western regions, headteachers complained of poor infrastructure and inadequate supply of water. In Vihiga County, a number of schools might not open after public health teams demanded improvement of sanitation facilities.

In Coast region, parents yesterday flocked bookshops and uniform shops for last-minute shopping. Many complained of financial constraints after they lost their jobs or took pay cuts. Kuppet Kwale branch secretary John Tuki said he biggest challenge schools face is the lack of space. In Nyeri, parents said they were not given enough time to prepare.

“How do you give parents a one-week notice to reopen schools that have been closed for seven months and they are supposed to buy uniforms and pay school fees?” Mr Joseph Mwangi posed.

County Kuppet chair Mwangi Maina said the reopening was too soon and schools were not ready because the government had not disbursed funds.

In Tharaka-Nithi County, parents were seen selling cereals and livestock to raise money.

Long queues

“We have been asked to pay half of the fees for the period that our children have been at home so that teachers can be paid,” said Mr Julius Kiganu, a parent.

A spot-check by the Nation revealed that most bookshops and uniform shops in Nyandarua, Narok and Laikipia were busy after seven months of inactivity.

Some of them hiked prices of school items by almost 50 per cent.

A skirt that sold for Sh500 in March retailed at between Sh750 and Sh800, while a blouse that retailed at Sh250 sold for between Sh300 and Sh350.

Long queues were witnessed in various retail outlets in Rumuruti, Kinamba and Mairo Inya towns. In Bungoma County, parents expressed concerns over fees payment after school heads issued notice demanding that students report with the full fees.

Davis Wafula a parent whose child is a KCSE candidate at Cardinal Otunga Girls Kanduyi, said that the Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected businesses, with some closing. At Kapsabet Boys, the principal, Kipchumba Maiyo, said they had prepared school for reopening.

Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association (Kepsha) chairperson Nicholas Gathemia said parents should prepare their children and buy all the necessary requirements including masks.

“Parents must ensure that children are wearing masks, failure to which they will not be allowed in the school compound,” said Mr Gathemia. However, he said learners from needy backgrounds could get government-issue face masks.

Reported by David Muchunguh, Faith Nyamai, Flora Koech, Wycliffe Kipsang, Evans Kipkura, Brian Ojamaa, Tom Matoke, Barnabas Bii, Sammy Lutta, Derick Luvega, Benson Amadala, Vitalis Kimtai, George Odiwuor, Ian Byron and Elizabeth Ojina, Waikwa Maina, Geoffrey Ondieki, Steve Njuguna, George Sayagie and John Njoroge, Fadhili Fredrick, Mishi Gongo and Charles Lwanga . [email protected]