Education is one of the sectors most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Learning institutions have been shut for more than two months, occasioning unprecedented disruption for learners. The worst hit are Standard Eight and Form Four candidates, who were due to write national examinations at the end of the year, but whose fate now remains uncertain.
There is concern that continued shutdown will be detrimental to the learners, which is why there have been calls for the government to provide direction on when learning institutions will reopen.
However, it is emerging that the institutions will remain shut for a little longer. That was the curt statement by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on Friday, as he received a task force report on schools reopening.
The earliest learners can resume studies might be in September, which in effect pushes national exams to next year.
Prof Magoha was categorical that the government is not in a hurry to get learners back to class given the rising numbers of coronavirus infections.
As at Friday, there were 1,745 infections in the country and 62 deaths. Given the trend, the argument is that any decision to reopen learning institutions has to be guided by the Health ministry’s advisory.
There are many variables that make it difficult for schools to reopen. One, several schools have been designated quarantine places. Two, the ongoing coronavirus mass testing is being conducted mainly in schools, so they have to be cleaned up before learners return.
And, three, transport remains paralysed since the government announced containment measures in March, which among others, limited the number of passengers in public service vehicles and prohibited movement in and out of some counties.
Even so, the major challenge is how to get all children to study while at home. On paper, the Education ministry is transmitting learning programmes through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development’s broadcast channels.
Unfortunately, that serves only a small percentage. A recent survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics showed that the content transmitted through television or radio and digitally only reached about 40 per cent of the learners, leaving out many from poor households who do not have those gadgets. In effect, this is perpetuating inequality in education.
Although it is premature to reopen schools, the government should provide a roadmap for education recovery.
Covid-19 has presented a chance to revitalise the education sector. School infrastructure has to be expanded, more teachers should be recruited and health and safety systems put in place.
Online teaching programmes have to be remodelled to benefit all learners.