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'Not safe to reopen schools,' warn headteachers

Saturday May 23 2020
By OUMA WANZALA

Headteachers have cautioned against rush to reopen schools during this coronavirus pandemic.

They want the decision to reopen schools be well  thought out informed by data from the Ministry of Health and other government agencies.

Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha) chairperson Nicholas Gathemia in a presentation to the Covid-19 Education Response Committee chaired by Dr Sara Ruto also want national examinations be rescheduled to later dates when candidates are adequately prepared.

Mr Gathemia said cases of Covid-19 in the country are increasing daily.

“No schools should open until the virus is fully eradicated or brought under control in the country,” he said.

He said in Nairobi County for instance, classrooms in public schools are usually congested with number of pupils ranging from 70 to 110.

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“It is not possible to observe some of the measures of social distancing unless more classrooms are added,” said Mr Gathemia.

He added that weeks of instruction time have been lost since schools’ abrupt closure on adding that it would be prudent that after reopening schools meaningfully programs should be put in place to deliver instructions to the learners.

The chairman, however, said for the schools to r-open the institutions must ensure that a number of measures are put in place.

This will include fumigation of all schools and especially those that were used as quarantine centres, sensitization of parents and pupils on their roles in keeping safe.

“With the cessation of movement, some teachers may find it difficult to report on duty; some travelled to their homelands. A survey can be carried out with aim of locating where the teacher is and they be allowed to report to the nearest schools,” said Mr Gathemia.

He added that all schools should be fenced to have one entry point and to control the outsiders and pupils.

Head teachers also want atleast two security guards to ensure orderliness in the entry and exit from the schools and the institutions should have adequate soap and water as well as sanitizers.

They also want schools to be fumigated daily or atleast once a week and the government should facilitate transportation of candidates and teachers to their respective schools using specific vehicles designed for specific schools and no visitors should to be allowed in schools.

Head teachers also want sanitizing booth at the entrance for both teachers and pupils and any other person who is to access the school.

However, Kenya women Teachers association (Kewota) want schools to reopen in July.

“A consideration for opening of schools in September 2020, subject to 90 day allowance for the government to put in place health and safety measures for teachers and learners. This includes overall health consideration in the flattening of the virus curve. Consequently, an adjustment of school calendar to fit the learners needs in terms of syllabus coverage .Policies established to protect staff, teachers and students who are at high risk due to age or underlying medical conditions, with plans to cover absent teachers and continue remote education to support students unable to attend school, accommodating individual circumstances to the extent possible,” said the association.

On Friday, the taskforce colluded collection of views from various stakeholders across the country.

The 10-member team chaired by Dr Sara Ruto is expected to explore ways to restore normalcy in the basic education sector’s academic calendar.

The team will advise the Cabinet Secretary on ways of on-boarding students or pupils when the schools re-open as well as document all Covid-19 related matters, lessons learnt and recommendations for future preparedness.

It will also advise the Cabinet Secretary on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the demand for education by poor households and suggest mitigation measures as well as on health and safety measures to be put in place for the pupils or students, teachers and entire school community.

The team will also identify institutions that may have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and advise on mitigation and recovery measures.

It will submit regular reports to the Cabinet Secretary on the progress of implementation of Covid-19 related programmes and any other related duty that may be assigned by  Prof Magoha.

Other members of the team are; Chairman, Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association Indimuli Kahi, Chairman, Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association Nicholas Gathemia, CEO, Kenya Private Schools Association Peter Ndoro and Chairman, Kenya Parents Association Nicholas Maiyo.

Also in the team are Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Augustine Muthigani, Kenya Association for Independent International Schools Jane Mwangi, National Council of Churches of Kenya's Nelson Makanda, Muslim Education Council's Sheikh Munawar Khan, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary General Akelo Misori and Chairman, Kenya Special Schools Heads Association Peter Sitienei.

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