Kuppet lauds Kenya's steps to curb spread of coronavirus

Tuesday March 24 2020
By OUMA WANZALA

A teachers' union has praised the government following drastic measures to prevent spread of the deadly coronavirus, with three cases now confirmed in the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta made several announcements on Sunday, saying two new patients were among 27 people who had come into close contact with the first one.

They are being treated at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi County.

Key among the measures the President announced were the indefinite closure of all learning institutions.

President Kenyatta said primary and secondary day schools will suspend operations from Monday while boarding schools will do the same by Wednesday.

Universities and tertiary institutions will be closed by Friday.

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Speaking after the President's address to the nation, Mr Akelo Misori, Secretary-General of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), termed the step positive and said the union had demanded it "to end the deep anxiety that had gripped schools".

"The government should ensure safety of students in boarding schools during this delicate moment. It also needs to take concrete steps to deal with this pandemic," he said.

MURKOMEN'S CALL

Earlier on Sunday, Senate majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen asked the Ministry of Education to close all schools over the virus that has left nearly 5,900 people dead globally.

Via Twitter, the Elgeyo Marakwet Senator said, "Ordinarily, the flu spreads fast through children in school and other social places.

"It’s my considered opinion that schools should be closed from tomorrow until the relevant authorities prepare well for better ways of containing the virus."

Schools were to close for the first term in the second week of April.

MAGOHA'S INSTRUCTIONS

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha had directed school heads to ensure learners with symptoms such as a fever, a cough and difficulties breathing received medical attention immediately and remained at home.

Prof  Magoha had also directed everybody in schools to regularly and thoroughly wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol–based hand sanitisers where possible.

“Ensure learners do not engage in any physical contact, such as handshaking or hugging as a form of greeting, by encouraging adoption of clapping, holding the chest, nodding or bowing," he had said.

"Physical contact is only permissible in instances of extreme medical emergencies."

A total of 12 million learners are in primary and secondary schools while 500,000 are in public and private universities.

So far, Africa Nazarene University and the University of Nairobi have suspended classes due to fears of an outbreak of the Covid-19 disease.

WHO'S INSTRUCTIONS

The World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) have issued similar guidelines to ensure students are protected.

The WHO said where schools remain open, and to make sure children and their families remain protected and informed, governments should provide information on matters such as handwashing and hygiene practices and provide hygiene supplies.

The agency also wants governments to clean and disinfect school buildings, especially water and sanitation facilities, and increase airflow and ventilation.

“Education can encourage students to become advocates for disease prevention and control at home, in school, and in their communities by talking to others about how to prevent the spread of viruses," the guidelines state.

"Maintaining safe school operations or reopening schools after a closure requires many considerations but if done well, can promote public health."

SUPPORT

Unicef want schools – whether open or helping students through remote learning – to give holistic support.

“Schools should provide children with vital information on handwashing and other measures to protect themselves and their families; facilitate mental health support and help prevent stigma and discrimination by encouraging students to be kind to each other and avoid stereotypes when talking about the virus,” it said.

The agency also asked institutions to monitor children’s health and let them stay at home if they are ill, as well as encourage them to ask questions and express their concerns.