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Covid-19 team wants schools to reopen in September

Thursday May 28 2020
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Kenya Institute of Curriculum Education Council Chairperson Sara Ruto. She is heading the Covid-19 Education Response Committee. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By FAITH NYAMAI
By DAVID MUCHUNGUH

Schools, colleges and universities may remain shut beyond June 4 if a preliminary report by a committee formed to advise Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha is adopted.

Additionally, national exams scheduled for November will be administered in February 2021, according to the report by the Covid-19 Education Response Committee chaired by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development Council chairperson Sara Ruto.

Although the Nation could not independently verify the highlights of the report, sources on the committee said Prof Magoha has been advised to start putting in place mechanisms to prepare for the reopening of schools in September.

The CS had set June 4 as the tentative opening date, pending the advice of the committee and the Ministry of Health.

That seems unlikely, considering the rising number of coronavirus infections. Kenya has 1,618 cases, with 147 reported Thursday.

“The final decision on when to reopen schools rests with the minister and the President, but we have presented our views,” the source said.

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Members of the committee are understood to have spent the better part of Thursday in a meeting “tying the loose ends of our report”.

Prof Magoha is expected to present his recommendations to President Uhuru Kenyatta, who announced the closure of learning institutions on March 15.

BOOST FUNDING

Mr Kenyatta last week hinted at adopting measures to open up the country’s economy.

The night-time curfew and restriction on movement from and into Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Mandera counties expire on June 6.

Dr Ruto’s committee recommends that the Education ministry change the academic calendar to start in September and provide the requisite resources to run schools smoothly.

The team has also asked the CS to enhance funding for schools. Schools had not received all the State funding by the time they closed.

Many are struggling to pay auxiliary staff and teachers hired by boards of management.

Private schools have also been hit by the prolonged closure, as they depend on fees to pay staff, rent and loans.

The task force says money due should be released in full in September.

The committee has also come up with rules for reopening schools in compliance with World Health Organisation guidelines on managing Covid-19.

It advises the ministry to ensure social distancing and high levels of hygiene are observed in schools.

SAFEY GUIDELINES

The source said education stakeholders should be involved in executing the back-to-school programmes.

Teachers’ unions protested their exclusion from the committee. More than 3,000 people and institutions submitted their views to the team.

The recommendations came a day after the Kenya National Union of Teachers, University Academic Staff Union, Kenya Human Rights Commission, Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Doctors Union, Forum for African Women Educationalists-Kenya and Elimu Tuitakayo Network said schools should remain closed until September.

They also proposed that national exams be postponed to the first quarter of 2021.

The organisations recommended an elaborate and solid plan on safety in schools by the Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health be put in place before schools reopen.

Tracking coronavirus

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