Magoha orders schools closed tomorrow for general election

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha

Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has instructed all basic education institutions to close for one week beginning tomorrow as the country readies for the general elections slated for Tuesday next week.

The announcement will catch parents and teachers by surprise as schools were originally scheduled to proceed for a one-week half-term break from Friday this week.

“As you are aware, Kenya is scheduled to conduct its national elections on Tuesday 9 August 2022. Therefore, following consultation, I hereby convey the Government’s decision on the immediate closure of all basic education institutions from Tuesday 2 until Wednesday 10 August to ensure that preparations and conduct of upcoming elections is carried out seamlessly,” Prof Magoha said in a statement.

Prof Magoha further instructed parents and teachers to ensure that all learners resume school on Thursday, August 11, 2022.

“This communication supersedes any earlier communication on the closure of basic education institutions,” the statement reads.

The change of dates might, however, mean more disruptions to an already tight academic calendar, depending on the outcome of the presidential vote.

The ministry made provision for the longer than usual half-term break in the academic calendar since most schools are used as polling and tallying centres during the electoral process.

“Is this real? It really throws me off-balance with travel plans already in place for the old dates. I’m just sick and tired of all this drama. What I wonder is, what is the guarantee that it will be safe for children to travel right after election results are out?” Rose, a parent from Kisumu whose daughter is in a school in Nairobi, told Nation.

The timing of the elections is tricky since they have come in the middle of the school term unlike before when learners are usually on holiday. There is also a possibility of further disruption to the academic calendar depending on the outcome of the presidential vote.

This school term has only ten weeks and is meant to end on September 16 2022. The third and last term of the crash programme is scheduled to run from September 26 to November 25 after which national examinations will commence.

However, all these plans are dependent on a series of events that might be triggered by Tuesday’s election.

Top two candidates

There are several scenarios that may affect the tight school calendar, which is scheduled to revert to normalcy in January next year.

“It is well that we will have our children at home as the electioneering goes on. Their safety is more important than anything else,” Tony Ochieng, a parent said.

Recent opinion polls have shown the top two candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto neck and neck in the race.

The polls show both candidates scoring below 50 per cent, raising the possibility of a runoff. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has seven days from August 9 to announce the results. Only the top two candidates participate in the repeat election that the IEBC must conduct after 90 days. This would be in early November, just when learners in Grade 6, Standard 8 and Form 4 will be preparing for the national examinations slated for the end of the month.

Such a scenario would require another break to allow for the elections and activities likely to follow. It would also affect the timing of the national examinations, which would have to be rescheduled.

In case the August 9 results are disputed by any of the contesting sides, a legal battle will ensue.

Candidates who dispute the outcome of the election have seven days to file a presidential petition, which will run to August 23. The Supreme Court will have 14 days to determine the validity of the allegations raised by the petitioners. This could go up to September 6. If the court upholds the result, the winner will be sworn in by September 13. In such a scenario the school calendar will not be disrupted.

If the court nullifies the election and orders a repeat election, as happened in the 2017 election, more disruptions to the calendar would follow.