Schools’ reopening: Proposals by various groups and date when report will be announced by committee

Back to school: Learners reporting back to school in this past photograph. Education ministry is set to give guidelines on schools reopening this coming week.
Back to school: Learners reporting back to school in this past photograph. Education ministry is set to give guidelines on schools reopening this coming week.

National Covid-19 Education Response Committee winded up the exercise of collecting views from Kenyans on Friday evening. The week long exercise saw the committee receive various proposals from about 3,000 individuals and groups on how learning institutions should be reopened.

The committee will be writing a report advising the cabinet secretary on how best to reopen basic education institutions, review and reorganize the academic calendar among other tasks.

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PROPOSALS SUBMITTED TO THE COMMITTEE BY VARIOUS STAKE HOLDERS

A section of stake holders have been irked by a proposal by secondary school teachers’ representatives to have part of the learners back to school next month. The groups including the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) and Kenya Human  Rights Commission (KHRC) in a statement this past week said proposal by Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) to partially reopen schools in June was ‘ill advised’.

“It is insensitive, pre-emptive, foolhardy and extremely wrong for anybody outside the medical profession or without medical expertise to propose the rushed reopening of schools in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, especially at this period when the virus is on spiral, threatening survival of humanity,” the three institutions said.

“Preliminary results from a rapid response survey rolled out by the agencies indicate that the situation on the ground is different and might require more effective measures to be put in place before such an action of reopening is undertaken,” they added.

The three groups have been bitter over the move by Education Cabinet Secretary Prof. George Magoha to exclude them from the committee tasked with coming up with proposals on how to restart learning.

And in expression of their anger, the three groups (Knut, KHRC and Kuppet) did not make their proposals to the constituted committee was just ‘a mere rubberstamp considering the manner in which it was constituted’. They said caution should be taken and there should be no rushed reopening of learning institutions. The ‘rebel’ group says provision of personal protective equipment and enforcement of other containment such as hand washing, fumigation of institutions and mass testing must be mandatory before schools reopen.

“It is worth noting that countries like France, which have attempted to reopen schools witnessed a resurgence of the virus, further affecting many teachers and learners,” reads the statement.

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Primary school heads on their part want the school annual calendar revised and KCPE and KCSE exams postponed until learners are well prepared to sit the examinations.

“The National examinations should be rescheduled to later dates when candidates are adequately prepared,” reads a proposal by Kenya Primary Schools Heads association (Kepsha) presented to the national covid-19 education response committee.

Kepsha says schools should not be reopened until the pandemic curve is flattened; adding that the situation will be worse in most schools that are overcrowded and social distancing would just be a mirage.

“The covid-19 spread in the country is rising day by day. Therefore, no schools should open until the virus is fully eradicated or brought under country in the country. In Nairobi county for instance, children are congested in the classrooms with so many pupils ranging from about 70 to 110 children per classroom in most schools”. add the primary school heads via a memo signed by the national chairperson, Nicholas Gathemia.

Among other proposals, the heads say class sizes should be reduced to have between 25-30 learners in order to attain social distancing and that the government should attach healthcare personnel to cluster of schools for regular monitoring; this is if schools must be reopened soon.

The committee will now retreat to write their report which will be submitted to president Uhuru Kenyatta before being made public next week; end of May.

The country will be waiting with bated breadth ahead of release of the report.

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