Exam candidates to begin gradual school reopening next week

A spike in coronavirus infections has cast doubt on the anticipated full reopening of schools on Monday.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The selection was apparently informed by the need to eliminate a bottleneck in the system that would have forced students to repeat classes.
  • Prof Magoha has opted for a phased reopening, giving priority to the pioneer CBC class and KCPE and KCSE candidates.
  • KCPE and KCSE exam candidates will now sit their tests in March and April 2021.
  • More than a million learners will join pre-school, while an almost similar number will join secondary school.

Schools reopen next week for learners in three classes crucial to transitioning to the next education levels, signalling the government’s determination to salvage an academic year disrupted by six months closure of institutions.  

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha Tuesday instructed Grade Four, Standard Eight and Form Four learners to report for their second term on Monday, the selection apparently informed by the need to eliminate a bottleneck in the system that would have forced students to repeat classes.

Prof Magoha has opted for a phased reopening, giving priority to the pioneer Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) class and the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam candidates, who will now sit their tests in March and April 2021.

Ease transitioning

The decision to recall finalists in the three stages was informed by the need to ease transitioning and avoid a backlog in the education system. More than a million learners will join pre-school, while an almost similar number will join secondary school.

Physical distancing

“Although physical distancing will remain a challenge, it should not be used as a bottleneck to keep any child away from school,” Prof Magoha said.

The partial reopening was approved during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Kenyatta after he flew back from an official visit to France.

But the statement was silent on the fate of some other 12 million learners, with reports that an announcement on the proposed dates for the rest was delayed because the President demanded more details on the plans put in place to protect them.

 “The Ministry of Education will immediately issue a comprehensive circular on reopening of all public and private schools,” Prof Magoha said. However, the school calendar will have to be reorganised and the authorities will be under pressure to guarantee learners’ protection against Covid-19 if the rest of the students are to be recalled.

The announcement came a day after universities and middle-level colleges started phased opening, giving priority to final-year students and those taking science courses.

Second term

The crash second term will take just 11 weeks, with schools closing on December 23, two days before Christmas. It will be a short holiday for the candidates and Grade Four learners as they will resume classes on January 4, 2021. Candidates will sit their KCPE exams from March 22 to 24 while the KCSE exams will be administered from March 25 to April 16 2021.

The programme Prof Magoha released shows KCSE exams will be marked in a record three weeks — from April 19 to May 7.

Although the CS has directed that all learners and staff wear face masks at all times, have their temperature monitored and observe high levels of hygiene, the government has not provided money for the expenses, pushing the burden to parents.

Just an hour before Prof Magoha released the statement, the High Court had ordered him to urgently convene a meeting of the parties in a case where he has been sued by a parent seeking the reopening of schools.

Justice James Makau ordered the Prof Magoha to discuss modalities of resuming studies and submitting a report to the court on October 14.

Earlier, the judge was furious that the CS and his Health counterpart had not filed replies since September 9. He ordered that the response to the suit and submissions be filed within three working days. Senior State Counsel Moimbo Momanyi said the first meeting will be held today at the ministry headquarters in Jogoo House. To prepare for reopening, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) directed teachers in all public schools to report to school last week. They have, however, been largely idle.

Kenya Primary School Head Teachers Association chairman Nicholas Gathemia said: “With the term dates for the Grade Four and Standard Eight having been released, teachers will prepare to start a crash programme before Monday.  We will, however, be waiting for more directions from the ministry on funding.”

Unable to pay rent

During the six-month closure, schools have struggled to settle bills and salaries for staff employed by the boards of management. Some cash-strapped private schools that were unable to pay rent for rented premises, service loans and pay their staff told parents to transfer their children as they would not reopen.

Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Kahi Indimuli said the Education ministry should issue clear guidelines on school fees to ensure parents don’t clash with principals.

Kenya Parents’ Association chairperson Nicholas Maiyo welcomed the decision to reopen schools: “Opening of schools in January would have been very expensive for parents.”

Kenya Special Needs Head Teachers Association chairman Peter Sitienei asked the government to supply schools with face masks and PPEs.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Secretary-General Akelo Misori said the announcement followed recommendations of the National Education Response Committee.

Full school calendar

Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary-General Wilson Sossion urged the government to release the full school calendar without further delay.

Tuesday, Unicef welcomed the Ministry of Education’s announcement for the partial reopening of schools. Country representative Maniza Zaman said: “The longer children are out of school, the greater the risk that the poorest among them will never return. They may be sent off to work, married off too early, or face other risks that can curb their development and well-being.”


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