Senators question Magoha's leadership amid resumption of learning
The Senate has welcomed the government’s decision to reopen schools, but faulted Cabinet Secretary George Magoha's stewardship of the Ministry of Education as they questioned the arbitrary manner in which he ordered the resumption of basic learning.
The lawmakers assailed the CS, saying the order to reopen schools was an ambush. They say the ministry has failed to appraise the public on the state of preparedness.
Senators Gertrude Musuruve, Moses Wetang'ula and Amos Wako urged the ministry to justify the curiosity of the public that learning places are safe and that the government has developed adequate safety measures and protocols to facilitate safe learning once schools resume on Monday.
“The Ministry of Education has not given a hint on the level of preparedness for safe learning,” Mr Wetang'ula said during debate in the House.
The ministry’s order to reopen schools came hardly a week after President Uhuru Kenyatta, in an address to the nation, had declared that learning places will remain closed until the safety of learners was ascertained.
But, in a move that was contrary to the presidential order, Prof Magoha surprised the nation on Tuesday when he gave the order reopening the schools.
Yesterday, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said Prof Magoha has perfected the art of issuing inconsistent information on education matters and sought a statement from the ministry to explain the order on reopening of schools.
“It is impossible for parents to prepare children for the reopening within three days,” Mr Cherargei protested, adding that a 90-day notice would have sufficed due to the long holiday.
“Many parents have been laid off due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have relocated to villages and yet they are being asked to pay school fees within a span of three days. This is not fair.”
“Let the government suspend the order to reopen until parents have been given adequate time to prepare.”
Besides the safety and level of preparedness, other issues the lawmakers want the ministry to explain are whether the measures and protocols developed by the Ministry of Health will be observed in schools, and how the State has prepared for it.
They want to know how the protocols – social distancing, sanitising, washing hands – will apply especially in schools that are congested, whether teachers and learners will take tests of the virus on the first day of reopening, and how regularly the test will be conducted and what happens should either party contract the dreaded virus while in the school environment.
They want the ministry to put isolation centres in all schools and a nurse deployed to all the schools to deal with emergency situations, water and soap provided to ensure that high levels of hygiene are maintained in schools in line with the protocols.
Mr Wetang'ula said the ministry should explain on what basis students in other classes will transition to the next classes should this year’s candidates sit their examinations in April as the government has scheduled.
“The most important point is whether children will be safe. The ministry should explain the extra care it has taken to ensure safety of the learners. Are we ready for the reopening? If yes, how?” he asked.
Mr Wako said complying with the Ministry of Health protocols will pose a challenge because most schools are congested and challenged Prof Magoha to explain what will happen to accommodate the rest of learners when schools reopen.
“Most schools do not have the necessary infrastructure to cope with the challenges of Covid-19. Do we have the time to put in place the infrastructure once schools reopen on Monday?” he asked, noting that tents should be erected in schools to facilitate social distancing.
But Deputy Majority Whip Farhiya Ali defended Prof Magoha, saying the more schools remain shut the more the economy is affected.
“I support the decision to reopen because the benefits outweigh the risks.”