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Unions to produce own report on school reopening

Friday May 22 2020

Elburgon D.E.B Secondary School

Students of Elburgon D.E.B Secondary School go home on March 16, 2020 after schools countrywide were closed following the coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VITALIS KIMUTAI
By VITALIS KIMUTAI
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Teachers’ and lecturers’ unions, together have partnered with the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and engaged medical experts to help develop a report on the reopening of learning institutions.

Professor Florentius Koech, a re-known medical expert at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret is leading the team to advise institutions on how educational institutions can be made Covid-19 free zones.

The move by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and KHRC runs parallel to a government task force chaired by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) chairperson Dr Sara Ruto.

The government team, which was formed by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha, was disowned by unions and civil society after they were excluded from the team.

In a joint statement, Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion, Uasu Secretary-General Constantine Opiyo and KHRC Executive Director George Kegoro said reopening of schools would be ill-advised at a time when the Ministry of Health has stated infections are expected to hit an all time high in September.

“It would be insensitive, pre-emptive, foolhardy and extremely wrong for anybody outside the medical profession or without medical expertise to propose the rushed reopening of schools,” read the statement.

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It further states: “As institutions, we have teamed up to prepare a comprehensive evidence-based, fact-driven parallel report with appropriate recommendations on the way forward to resumption of teaching and learning in the country”.

They said the re-opening of learning institutions must be based on analysis of critical information gathered on how schools, teachers and communities are coping with the pandemic.

“We must learn from countries like France where recently the number of infections sharply rose after an attempt to re-open schools while in Britain, trade unions have demonstrated it is difficult to enforce social distance in schools,” they said.

Mr Sossion said the three institutions would not submit their report to the Dr Ruto-led team claiming it was a rubber stamp for what Prof Magoha and technocrats at the Education ministry want done.

Members of the task force chaired by Dr Ruto include Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association chairman Indimuli Kahi, Kenya Primary Schools Heads Association chairman Nicholas Gathemia, Kenya Private Schools Heads Association Chief Executive Officer Peter Ndoro and Kenya Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo.

Mr Akello Misori, the Secretary-General of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers and Mr Peter Sitienei of the Kenya Special Schools Heads Association are also in the team.